Have you been contacted by police officers concerned about files that may be found on your computer?
We have a track record of representing individuals, often professionals accused of this type of conduct. Our expertise in this niche area means that we are often referred many clients facing this predicament by other lawyers and advice agencies.
Often our clients seek pre-emptive advice fearing that the police may come knocking. Or, having been arrested, they have to wait many months for the results of police forensic analysis of the computer equipment sized and are unhappy with the quality of advice provided by other lawyers they have consulted.
Experience shows that users of child porn websites can be traced by a variety of means – from the credit card details of subscribers to online porn providers (Operation Ore) or reports made by work colleagues, friends or computer repair engineers to the police. In some cases images are discovered when phones or laptops are seized by the police in unrelated investigation. In others, undercover officers have posed on Internet chat rooms where suspected paedophile activities taking place
We have even come across reports of ISP and cloud storage providers providing information to the authorities.
When an investigation begins the police will obtain a warrant to search your home or office. All computer and digital storage equipment will be seized and sent for forensic interrogation at a specialist police High Tech Crime Unit lab.
Once their work is done a report will be prepared. If evidence is found of illegal material, the prime user of the PC/phone/laptop may be questioned. The police will typically seek information about material that may have been downloaded or shared on applications such as bit torrent peer to peer networks, Padlet, Chatstep or Kickmessage.
At this stage it is important that an experienced lawyer is instructed, not just to protect your rights but also to advise on what can be done to protect your reputation.
BSQ partner Roger Sahota has called for a change in the law concerning indecent images prosecutions and heads our private client department in this area.
"A recent report by the NSPCC suggests the number of individuals looking at such images could exceed half a million and constituted a "social emergency".
Against this background we believe efforts to divert those offenders who do not pose a risk of contact offending away from the criminal justice system to treatment within the community deserves urgent attention.
Most immediately, amending the sentencing guidelines for the offence of possession or downloading of illegal child porn (p.75-81, which makes no specific reference to a low risk of contact offending) should also be considered.
If rehabilitation is the primary objective, criminalising those men who do view this type of material but pose no appreciable risk of contact offending is not the answer."
Read the full text of Roger's article here.
To defend such cases, specialist IT skills are vital. Roger Sahota understands the complicated technical issues that arise in this area. Most prosecutions depend on the evidence produced by the Prosecution’s forensic computer analysis.
An important part of the service we provide is to instruct our own digital forensic experts to analyse and double check the analysis provided by the Prosecution to see if it is accurate. On the basis of their work we regularly challenge the assumptions and conclusions of the police experts.
Sadly, we have seen many instances where other inexperienced lawyers have failed to conduct this type of work. Mistakes in the categorisation of images and the technical evidence relied on by the police are surprisingly common and have in many cases led to acquittals and convictions being overturned.
For example, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has produced detailed guidelines for the police examination of digital evidence. These guidelines are generally followed by our independent analysts. Any departure from them by the police could jeopardise a prosecution. For a confidential and free discussion about your case please contact our offices
You may have a defence if you can show that had a legitimate reason for possessing, distributing or showing the photographs - academic research for instance.
Alternatively it could be that you had not seen the photographs and did not know or have any cause to suspect them to be indecent.
Problems for the Prosecution often also arise as many accused are not even aware that they have downloaded indecent images. For example, “thumbnails” of indecent images can appear at the bottom of the screen when the user is looking at adult pornography online.
Or virus and Trojan programs can be configured to download indecent material without the knowledge of the owner of a PC.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Crown to prove you have not only downloaded but also looked at the images found on a flash or hard- drive.
To justify a prosecution, the Prosecution must prove that an image is indecent and features a young person or child under 18.
Before April 2014 child abuse images were categorised according to the COPINE scale (“Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe”) categorisation. New sentencing guidelines introduced on 1 April 2014 mean there are now 3 categories - A, B and C of images based on how serious the conduct depicted is.
We estimate that up to 40% of the images in the police database have been incorrectly categorised. In some cases, the models that feature in certain “barely legal” sites have been proved to be above the legal age based on information in the USC Title Database.
The Protection of Children Act 1978 criminalises:-
The taking or making of indecent photographs of children
The possessing of indecent photographs or children with a view of them then being distributed or shown.
The distribution of this material
The publication of this material
Section 61 of the CJA 1988 also makes it an offence for any person to have an indecent photograph of a child in his or her possession.
Indecent Images Articles On Our Blog
07.10.2017 BSQ Briefing - Sexting, Children and the Law
14.07.2017 Indecent Images Investigation Discontinued
07.03.2017 Indecent Images - Time to reform the law?
19.10.2016 Indecent Images Success