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Will I go to Prison for Possession of Indecent Images?




It is an offence to possess indecent photographs of children. The law is governed under section 1 of Protection of Children Act 1978.

Whether someone will go to prison for possession of indecent images depends on a number of factors.

Indecent images fall into 3 categories of seriousness.


Category A – This relates to images involving penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal or sadism.

Category B – Images involving non-penetrative sexual activity.

Category C – Indecent images not falling within categories A or B.


The prosecution will identify how many images fall into each of the 3 categories. This will form the basis of the court’s view on sentence.

The second thing that the court will consider is what was done with the images. Again there are 3 categories – Possession, distribution and production.

Possession is simply having custody and control of the photographs stored on a device. This is the least serious of the categories but does require both a mental and physical possession.

Distribution is defined as parting with possession of it, or exposing or offering it for acquisition by another person. This includes allowing it to be accessed via file sharing programmes.

Production this relates to making the original image. It can also include downloading an image onto your device but for the purposes of sentencing this would be treated as possession.


Sentencing Guidelines

The least serious offences relate to possession of category C images. These are usually dealt with by the courts by way of a community order (for example unpaid work or attending prescribed probation courses) but it can result in a prison sentence of up to 6 months. Distribution or production of even category C images will normally result in a prison sentence.

Any offence relating to category A images will probably result in a prison sentence.

The diagram below shows how the court will deal with all of these offences.

Category Possession Distribution Production
A Starting point
1 year’s custody
Starting point
3 years’ custody
Starting point
6 years’ custody
  Category range
26 weeks’ – 3 years’ custody
Category range
2 – 5 years’ custody
Category range
4 – 9 years’ custody
B Starting point
26 weeks’ custody
Starting point
1 year’s custody
Starting point
2 years’ custody
  Category range
High level community order – 18 months’ custody
Category range
26 weeks’ – 2 years’ custody
Category range
1 – 4 years’ custody
C Starting point
High level community order
Starting point
13 weeks’ custody
Starting point
18 months’ custody
  Category range
Medium level community order – 26 weeks’ custody
Category range
High level community order – 26 weeks’ custody
Category range
1 – 3 years’ custody


These are only guidelines and it is important to remember that the court will look at each case individually and it is important that the court are fully aware of your background and circumstances. A very important factor is the level of genuine remorse shown by you. Other factors to be taken into account are as follows.


  • Previous convictions.
  • Age and/or vulnerability of the child depicted.
  • Discernable pain or distress suffered by child depicted.
  • Period over which images were possessed, distributed or produced.
  • High volume of images possessed, distributed or produced.
  • Placing images where there is the potential for a high volume of viewers.
  • Collection includes moving images.
  • Attempts to dispose of or conceal evidence.
  • Abuse of trust.
  • Child depicted known to the offender.
  • Active involvement in a network or process that facilitates or commissions the creation or sharing of indecent images of children.
  • Commercial exploitation and/or motivation.
  • Deliberate or systematic searching for images portraying young children, category A images or the portrayal of familial sexual abuse.
  • Large number of different victims.
  • Child depicted intoxicated or drugged.
  • Factors that will make it less serious include –
  • No previous convictions or no relevant/recent convictions.
  • Remorse.
  • Previous good character and/or exemplary conduct.
  • Mental disorder or learning disability, particularly where linked to the commission of the offence.
  • Demonstration of steps taken to address offending behaviour.


Forrest Williams are a nationwide firm of solicitors and are experts in all areas of sexual offences.  If you need help to avoid prison for possession of indecent images, or any other sex offence, call our specialist team now on 01623 397200.




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  • Private Prosecution