‘Legitimate Reason’ is a defence to charges of possession of indecent images under section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 and distribution or showing indecent images under sections 1(b)(c) of the Protection of Children Act 1978.
The defence is made out if the defendant proves that he had a legitimate reason for the conduct in question. This is a legal rather than an evidential burden (R v Collier  1 Cr. App. R. 9). This means if this matter is raised as an issue by the defence the defendant is required to prove that he or she has a legitimate reason. The defendant does not need to prove this ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ rather is required to prove this on the ‘balance of probabilities’ i.e. that is more likely than not to be true.
‘Legitimate Reason’ is not defined in either Act. In Atkins v DPP; Goodland v DPP  2 Cr. App. R. 248 it was held that it is a pure question of fact in each case. In cases where it was maintained that the conduct was part of legitimate research, the central question will be whether the defendant was essentially a person with an unhealthy interest in indecent images acting under the pretence of undertaking research or, on the other hand, was a genuine researcher who had no alternative but to have such unpleasant material in his possession. The judgment continued to say that the courts “are plainly entitled to bring a measure of scepticism to bear upon such an enquiry; they should not too readily accept that the defence is made out“.
As such it is likely that such a defence will be unusual; however, examples could potentially include police training, clinical psychiatry as well as other areas of genuine research.
However, in every case this, and all other possible defences, needs to be considered very carefully. If your case is unusual it is possible appropriate representations (along with supporting evidence) could be made to the CPS in an attempt to halt proceedings.
If you feel that this may apply to your situation, please feel free to call us immediately for preliminary free and confidential l advice.