Caution Indecent Images

We are often asked by our clients as to whether they can avoid court if they accept a caution for possession or making indecent images.

The short answer is generally no. The decision by the police to administer a caution will ordinarily be made in conjunction with the CPS, although the police do, theoretically, retain a right to administer a caution.

Before offering a caution, the prosecutor (or police officer) must apply his or her mind to the public interest factors. Every case should be decided upon its own facts. However the cases involving indecent images of children are generally regarded as too serious to be dealt with in this way.

According to the CPS own website: “a caution is unlikely to be a suitable method of disposal in cases where indecent images of children are found on the suspect’s computer. Similarly, conditional cautions may be considered but are unlikely to be a suitable method of disposal. The lowest starting point stated in the sentencing guidelines is a high-level community order. The lowest starting point where conditional cautions are normally considered are at medium-level or below.

Cases that may be appropriate for a caution (subject to the application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors) are cases where indecent images of children are not found on the suspect’s computer, but the suspect admits to having previously accessed such sites to obtain indecent images of children”

This reluctance to issue cautions in these cases is despite a recent interview given by Simon Bailey the police chief in charge of child protection whereby he admitted that the police and courts are absolutely overwhelmed by this work and do not have the resources to bring every offender to justice through the courts.

According to the Times, the number of reports of child abuse being made to the police has risen by 80% in three years. Police receive an average of 112 complaints a day and in 2015 there were 70,000 cases of child sexual abuse investigated. The police arrest 400 people each month on suspicion of viewing indecent images.

As such Bailey made the suggestion that to deal with this problem (that will only get worse as the police get ever more adept at tracing potential illegal Internet use) was to divert ‘low risk’ offenders who have viewed this material away from court by the use of conditional cautions.

Conditional cautions can have conditions attached to them to reduce risk e.g. to attend courses and to restrict internet use and so on the face of it this seemed like an eminently sensible idea.

However the proposals were roundly criticised by the mainstream media and several groups and charities involved in child protection including the National Association for People Abused in Childhood.

As such it is unlikely that cautions (conditional or otherwise) will, for the foreseeable future, be regarded as an appropriate and proportionate way of dealing with this growing problem of downloading and making of indecent images of children.

However, if the amount of images is low and of the least serious category C and / or your personal circumstances are unusual it is possible representations can still be made to the CPS and / or police that an indecent images caution be issued in exceptional circumstances.

Please feel free to call us 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free and confidential advice as to whether a caution for indecent images may be a possibility in your case.