A recent study, referred to in The Guardian, suggested that viewers of online abuse were at high risk of contacting children directly. The study suggested that around 42% sought contact after looking at indecent images.
This is combined with reports seen over the last few years suggesting that there has been a large increase in people accessing this material (mainly during lockdown) which threatens to overwhelm Police forces in the UK who are struggling to cope with the increase. Prosecuting such cases is costly and time consuming as Police need to analyse all devices linked to an offender which can take over a year to be analysed.
Representing Clients Prosecuted for Indecent Images
The approach taken with regards these investigations is very different to dealing with other kinds of cases. The reality of these cases is that there is usually strong evidence linking a client to having accessed, distributed or even having taken such images. The approach is therefore usually damage limitation.
One of the main objectives the Police have in such cases is to reduce the risk of ‘contact offences’ taking place in the future. Often when a client is first arrested, or when their devices are seized, the Police contact other agencies including social services, to contact family members to see if there have been any contact offences or to assess whether there is a risk of contact offences taking place in the future. Where appropriate, bail conditions are put in place either banning contact or allowing supervised contact with family members 16 or under.
A client can find themselves isolated from their family and having limited contact with them. Sometimes families continue to support the clients and sometimes they don’t. Support is to be encouraged if possible as otherwise clients can find themselves suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. Often such clients have never been in trouble with the Police before and find the whole process bewildering. They need to have the process explained to them as soon as practicable, especially the timescale so they can plan what to do in that period.
The motivation for accessing images is varied. Often clients have ‘pornography addictions’ which seeks them to seek out varied and more extreme types of material. Sometimes clients suffer from obsessive personality traits which lead to falling down the indecent images ‘rabbit hole’ collecting vast amounts of material. Sometimes bereavements and other traumatic episodes leads client to explore the material. The reasons for accessing the material given are wide and varied. Most clients who access the material do so knowing how terrible the material is and are deeply ashamed with their own actions. Notwithstanding this they compulsively access it again in a cyclical pattern of offending.
A helpful way to deal with clients is therefore transparency. This is being open to the Police about their activities. This will usually involve full admissions to the Police when interviewed. This helps the Police and social services to quantify risk which would reduce over time with admissions.
Coupled with the transparency is diversion to appropriate agencies. There are a number of agencies operating in the UK who provide excellent intervention with clients that can directly affect risk and reduce the likelihood of further offences occurring and contact offences taking place. Clients often report back from doing courses that for the first time they see how their offending impacts on the victims. This helps them to contextualise what they do and makes it much less likely that they will continue to do this.
It may also be appropriate to obtain a psychological report for the client if they exhibit any particular traits that are relevant to the offences that may need to be addressed.
By the time the case gets to Court all the above work has either been completed or is in progress. The client is likely to enter guilty pleas at Court so the case would be committed for sentence. They will be able to see probation prepared for tough questions having been transparent to the Police, having already completed courses, being open and honest to them. This is likely to result in a favourable report. This is likely to result in a sentence that does not result in immediate custody but instead allows them to work with probation undertaking relevant courses to continue to address their risk and result in them being unlikely to commit like or contact offences in the future.
Specialist defence solicitors for Indecent Images offences
Olliers’ team of specialist lawyers can assist you if you are under investigation for indecent images offences.
We have many years of experience of dealing with allegations of indecent images and understand that for many individuals it may be their first involvement with the criminal justice system. We understand how daunting the situation may be for you. We promise not to judge and seek to work together to achieve the best outcome for you. We aim to explain the process and procedures to you in clear and unambiguous language whilst at the same understanding the anxiety you face at the situation ahead.
If you are facing an allegation involving indecent images please contact Ruth Peters on 0161 834 1515.