Old Bailey Solicitors

Sentence for Possession of Indecent Images of Children

If you are under investigation or facing criminal court proceedings for possession of indecent images, you will understandably be concerned about the potential sentence.

Old Bailey Solicitors have significant experience of representing those accused of all manner of sexual offences, including those involving children. We have particular expertise in representing those accused of possession of indecent images of children and we are well equipped to advise at an early stage how to best mitigate your sentence if you are guilty of the offence and how to proactively defend your position if you are not guilty and wish to contest the charge.

What will the court look at when deciding the sentence for possession of indecent images of children?

If you are guilty of possession of indecent images of children, the first step for the court is to determine the category of image(s).

Indecent images of children are broken down into three categories, as follows:

Category A

This is the most serious category and includes images that can be described as obscene; including those showing penetrative sexual activity, sadism, bestiality, of a child being subjected to pain.

Category B

This category includes images depicting non-penetrative sexual activity/sexual assault, often involving an adult.

Category C

This is the least serious category and includes images depicting some form of sexually suggestive content or posing. This type of image could include a family photo depicting, for example, a nude child if the motivation of the person accused are allegedly sexual (rather than because the image is necessarily sexual in nature).

In practice, it is not unusual for cases to involve images covering the range of categories, from A through to C. This is because most indecent images are accessed or shared via file sharing platforms online and offending folders generally contain a significant number of images, spanning the three categories.

Possession, distribution or production of indecent images of children

Once the category or categories of indecent image has been identified, the court must also determine what the accused person is alleged to have done with the images(s) in question. That is, have they possessed, distributed or produced the image in question.

Generally speaking, being in possession of indecent image(s) involves image(s) that are stored on an electronic device having either been viewed, saved or downloaded in some way. You can be guilty of possession of an indecent image even if you have not intentionally saved or downloaded an image: Simply accessing the image may be enough for the prosecution to prove it’s case. This is so even if you have attempted to delete the image and/or if it is now contained in a part of the device that you are not able to access.

Distribution of images takes place when they are forwarded or shared with others.

Production relates to the making of the original image. This is considered more serious than possession or distribution and, when it comes to sentence, is punished more severely.

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We have offices in Brighton, London and Horley and advise clients on all aspects of criminal defence allegations, including sexual offences, violent offences and drug offences.

What is the sentence for possession of indecent images of children?

The court will then be in a position to identify the starting point and range of sentence based on the categorisation of the image(s) and the activity involved.

It will refer to the Sentencing Guidelines produced by the Sentencing Council to balance the various factors that mitigate and aggravate the offence, together with any mitigation personal to the offender, to determine the appropriate sentence.

There is a long, non-exhaustive list, of factors making the offence more serious which include for example; a large number of images or victims, a collection including moving images, images depicting clearly very young or vulnerable victims and offenders who have committed similar offences before.

Whilst it is possible to receive a community-based penalty for possession of indecent images of children, that is usually only achievable when dealing with possession or distribution of images in the lower categories (C and, sometimes, B). Invariably, sentences for this type of offence do attract periods of imprisonment to reflect the seriousness of the offence.

Ancillary Orders

As well as the headline sentence, the court will also consider the ongoing protection of the public.

If the court considers that there is an ongoing risk of sexual harm towards the public, or towards children in particular, and that an order is necessary to manage that risk, it is likely that a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) will be imposed. The terms of a SHPO vary from case to case and can be wide ranging. They may seek to manage your access to, and use of, the internet or electronic devices, or they may place restrictions on your work and/or access to children.

You will also, as a result of the conviction, be required to comply with the Notification Requirements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (known colloquially as the Sex Offender’s Register). The length of this requirement is set by statue and depends upon the sentence imposed and duration of any SHPO.

How can we help?

Where possible, Old Bailey Solicitors will always seek to persuade the court to suspend any period of imprisonment. This requires our involvement from an early stage in the process to ensure that we are able to advise you of the steps that you can take to maximise your mitigation and to put yourself in the best possible position to receive a suspended sentence order.

We will also seek to negotiate terms of a SHPO that are necessary and proportionate, or to argue against an order in its entirety where we can demonstrate no or low ongoing risk.

This includes taking active steps to address the cause of your offending behaviour, demonstrating contrition and remorse and showing a willingness to work with the authorities to rehabilitate yourself. It may also involve obtaining medical evidence and/ or character evidence about you to assist the court to determine risk.

To discuss your own individual situation confidentially, please contact our specialist team.

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