Indecent Images Update - Court of Appeal Revises Guidelines in SHOPO Cases

A recent decision by the Court of Appeal provides welcome clarity to defendants and participants in indecent images cases.

SHOPOS – Sexual Harm Prevention Orders are routinely imposed in cases where individuals are convicted of indecent image offences. The terms of the orders normally place restrictions on an individual’s internet usage and contact with children under 18.

Previously the leading case on SHOPOS is (and remains) R v Smith [2011] EWCA Crim 1772; [2012] 1 WLR 1316.

 In R v Parsons [2017] EWCA Crim 2163 the Court revised the Smith guidelines on SHOPO’s in the light of developments in technology and everyday life.  In summary it held;

1.     SHOPOS should not include a blanket ban on Internet Usage – this was unrealistic, oppressive and disproportionate.”

2.     Where an individual can show that his employers have risk monitoring software at work there is no requirement for additional software to be implemented on work equipment by the Police. The Court formulated a model direction to be imposed in such cases:-  

"The Defendant is prohibited from:

(1) Using any computer or device capable of accessing the internet unless:

 (a) He has notified the police VISOR team within 3 days of the acquisition of any such device;

 (b) It has the capacity to retain and display the history of internet use, and he does not delete such history;

 (c) He makes the device immediately available on request for inspection by a Police officer, or police staff employee, and he allows such person to install risk management monitoring software if they so choose.

 This prohibition shall not apply to a computer at his place of work, Job Centre Plus, Public Library, educational establishment or other such place, provided that in relation to his place of work, within 3 days of him commencing use of such a computer, he notifies the police VISOR team of this use.

3.     SHOPOs often include a clause restricting contact between the person convicted and children under 18. In Smith it was held that is "not legitimate to impose multiple prohibitions on a defendant just in case he commits a different kind of offence". There must be "an identifiable risk of contact offences" before prohibitions on contact can be justified. In Parsons the Court considered a case that was,

 “close to the borderline. The appellant's relevant offending comprised making indecent photographs of children. That said, the facts (set out above) disclosed his browsing or searching for websites which could be used for online chats with young children. Such searches could have been a first step towards the commission of predatory offending, seeking out children for sexual purposes. In the circumstances, we are persuaded that the inclusion of some contact prohibitions in the SHPO was necessary and proportionate.”

As the appellant's offending related to female children it held that that the SHOPO prohibitions should be confined to female children.

“The most important practical aspect of this decision to our clients will be that it leaves open the possibility that after a conviction individuals can continue in their previous occupations without having specialist police monitoring software installed on their work computers.”
— Roger Sahota

If you require advice in an indecent images case please contact our London office.