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When Is An Image Indecent And When Is It Not?

March 01 2012

The initial finding of indecent images on the computer should comprise the starting point of the investigation.  Regrettably, this mere presence is sometimes put forward on its own as “conclusive” evidence. There are a surprising number of ways in which such material can be present on a computer without the intent or knowledge of its user. 

The provenance of the images is crucial in respect to both responsibility and intent, as is the “getting back to basics” approach of establishing that the images are actually unlawful. 

Our computer experts been involved in several cases recently where evidence found during an extended examination led to a reduction in the charges against a client or the complete withdrawal of the case. 

In one case, analysis of the hard disk drive revealed that the images had been created by a previous owner of the drive and that it would have been impossible for the client to even be aware of their presence without the use of forensic software (case withdrawn). 

In another, the defendant’s assertion that he was out of the UK at the time of the alleged offences could be confirmed (case withdrawn).

There is an apparent trend for some agencies to reallocate the classification of indecent images from experienced specialists to “Officers in the Case”. This may have resulted in the misclassification of images, either in the matter of their being indecent, or of their categorisation if found to be of that nature. In one such case, the client was initially charged with 17 counts relating to the making and possession of indecent images.  Analysis of the content led to the CPS agreeing that all but 7 of the 65 images alleged to be indecent were in fact lawful.  The client pleaded guilty to much reduced charges. 

Our experts Steve Guest and Ross Donnelly can advise further on what investigations should be carried out.  Both can be contacted at our Durham office on 0191 332 4999.

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