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Accused of Possessing, Downloading or Distributing Indecent Images?

Indecent Images Offences Solicitors

Over the last two decades, the internet and smartphones have changed the way that we live. The downside of this is that you are often only a few clicks away from illegal images, whether you were seeking it out or not.

Allegations of making, possessing or distributing indecent images are taking extremely seriously by the Courts. We understand that, if you are facing these types of allegations, you will understandably be incredibly anxious about the impact that it might have on your reputation, your career and your relationships.

The support of experts with experience in this area of the law is crucial. The legal team at Clifford Johnston & Co have been representing clients for over 35 years and have a team of specialist solicitors who can assist you if you are being investigated for indecent image offences.

Get in touch with us; we will not judge you.  We will listen to your side of the story and will do everything that we can to achieve the best legal outcome for you.

Whether you have recently been informed of the allegations against you, or you have been arrested or charged, contact us today for expert legal advice and representation. We are based in the North West but can offer support across the United Kingdom.

What Are Indecent Images Offences?

With technology evolving to make pornography much more prevalent and easier to access, the law covering indecent images has also evolved to cover a growing range of offences. The majority of offences are related to images of children, but can also include images of animals, and increasingly “revenge porn”, where a private sexual image of a person is circulated, without permission, with the intention of causing embarrassment or distress.

Indecent images are now graded in three categories:

  • Category A: This is the most serious category, covering extreme images involving penetration, sadism or sexual activity with an animal.
  • Category B: This covers explicit images of non-penetrative sexual activity.
  • Category C: Images not covered by category A and B above, for example images that are sexually suggestive.

Making, Possessing and Distributing Indecent Images

It is an offence to produce, possess or distribute images that fall into the categories above. There are two Acts that cover this area of law.

Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and prohibits:

  • taking, permitting or making, any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child
  • distributing, or showing such indecent images
  • possessing such indecent images.

Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 makes it an offence for anyone to have any indecent image of a child in their possession and carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.

In law, a child is defined as a person under the age of 18.

An indecent image can be either a photograph, a computer-graphics image that appears to be a photograph or a video.

Making an indecent image

As well as creating a new image, each of these actions can be a crime:

  • photocopying or printing an image
  • downloading an image to a device
  • opening an email attachment that contains an indecent image
  • accessing a website where images ‘pop-up’ automatically.

Possession of an indecent image

Having indecent images stored on any of your devices and viewing indecent images online may constitute being in possessing of an indecent image. The Crown must prove that you have control and custody of the image; they do not need to show that you knew that the images were indecent images of a child for example.

Distribution of an indecent image

Distributing indecent images is a serious  offence.  It involves you parting possession of them and includes exposing others to them or offering them to others. For example, this offence is often committed by persons sending such images to others  by texting or WhatsApp or by uploading them to a website and allowing others to access them.

What Will Happen If I Am Investigated?

Quite often, you will be unaware that you are being investigated for indecent images offences until the police knock at your door. They may arrive with a warrant because of information given to them by an internet provider or in relation to a wider police investigation.

It is likely that your computer and other devices may be seized for analysis by the police, and any evidence found could be used to form a case against you. It is possible for the police to recover images that have been on your devices even if you have deleted them. Your equipment will be held until the investigation is over.  Should any indecent images be found on any of your devices, the police can apply to have them destroyed.

The police may invite you to attend an interview at the station or they may arrest you when they search your house. You will be questioned, and the police will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to charge you with an indecent images offence.

Having police search your home and interview you can be frightening, and therefore it is very important that you seek expert legal advice as soon as you become aware that you are being investigated or once you have been arrested. Our specialist indecent images lawyers will ensure that you receive the necessary support form a specialist lawyer.

When the police have concluded their investigation, you will either be:

  • released without charge
  • cautioned
  • released under investigation
  • charged with an offence.

What Will Happen If I Am Charged with An Indecent Images Offence?

If, following their investigation, the police decide that they have enough evidence to charge you, you will be required to appear in Court. Whether your case is heard in the Magistrates or the Crown Court will depend on the seriousness of the charges against you, the number of images and the category of image.  Quite often a person will be charged with many offences, particularly where the images involved fall under different categories.

If you have been charged to attend Court for indecent image offences, it is vital that you contact us immediately.  Our experienced indecent image solicitors are best placed to advise you in respect of the evidence, court procedure and sentencing guidelines.

If you are found guilty, the court will weigh up all the factors involved, taking into account aggravating and any mitigating factors. They will consider:

  • The number of images involved and the category of the images
  • The age and vulnerability of the subject of the images
  • The amount of distress inflicted on the subject
  • The role that you have played in creating, possessing or distributing the images.

The Court will also take into account any previous convictions, good character, remorse and any steps taken by you to seek help for your behaviour.

Are There Any Defences for Indecent Images Offences?

This is an incredibly complex area of law and, therefore, it is important that you seek assistance from a solicitor with the appropriate knowledge to defend you. There are many factors to consider when building a defence case

Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1998 sets out possible defences, namely:

  • that you had a legitimate reason for having the image in your possession
  • that you had not seen the photograph and did not know, nor had any cause to suspect, it to be indecent; or
  • that the photograph was sent to you without any prior request and that you did not keep it for an unreasonable time.

It is often the case that people unintentionally access indecent images – it is now common for people to be part of group chats with people that they do not know. In some instances, files have been downloaded automatically onto devices without the owner’s knowledge, and without them ever having been viewed.

If you do receive an unsolicited indecent image you should delete it immediately and ensure that it has not been automatically saved elsewhere on your device.

“Lack of awareness” and “unsolicited photographs” are common defences in these circumstances.

Our experts will careful consider all the evidence, listen and obtain your instructions and then advise you as to your options. Even if you intend to plead guilty, it is crucial to your case that your solicitor puts forward compelling mitigation to reduce your sentence.

What Are the Penalties For Indecent Images Offences?

The sentence imposed for indecent image offences varies and will depend on many factors including the number of images, the category of the images and your personal circumstances.

The Court will be assisted by the sentencing council’s guidelines for these types of offences. They provide a range of sentences depending on the facts of each individual case.

Possession of category C images often attract a non-custodial sentence such as a community order.  This could involve an electronic curfew, supervision, a programme requirement and/r unpaid work in the community.

The guidelines for being in possession of category A images attracts a range of between 26 weeks to 3 years imprisonment.  The length of the sentence may be increased by aggravating factors such as previous convictions or may be reduced due to exemplary character or genuine remorse and a desire to seek help.

If convicted you will be subject to what is known as the sexual notification requirements.  This involves, for example, notifying the police of your address, your bank details and any foreign travel. There is no discretion, exercised by either the courts or the police, in imposing the notification requirements – they are mandatory for certain sexual offences; the period of notification depends on the sentence imposed.

Having an expert defence solicitor will help to mitigate your case and achieve the best possible outcome.

How Can Clifford Johnston & Co Help?

Clifford Johnston & Co has a team of experienced indecent images offences lawyers. We understand the emotional toll that this will take on you and will work proactively for you at each stage to make sure that you understand the process and what options are available to you.

We can liaise with the police on your behalf, advise you through the interview process, represent you in court and put forward a strong, robust defence and/or mitigation.

We also have a track record of successfully persuading the police not to prosecute our clients despite them being found in possession of indecent images.

Contact us today for an initial consultation, immediate representation, and expert advice.

We know that our help can make a real difference to your case.

 

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