skip to main content

How are indecent images detected by Law Enforcement Agencies?

According the National Crime Agency (NCA), there has been a 700% rise in allegations of abuse images since 2013. Technology continues to play an important role in changing patterns of abuse, but it’s a double-edged sword in many respects, as pioneering technology can also lead the fight against the viewing and making of indecent images – safeguarding victims, bringing offenders to justice and helping children and young people remain safe.

The Child Abuse Image Database (CAID)

In 2014, the UK Government created the Child Abuse Image Database (CAID), and there are now over 13 million images on CAID, with the number growing by half a million every two months. Since the introduction of CAID, the government has continued to invest heavily in new technology to ensure victims (and locations where offences occur) are identified much quicker.

As an example, the UK’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed in 2019 that forces would be provided access new tools that speed up investigations of online child abuse and reduce the number of indecent images of children (IIOC) that police officers have to view. The new tools (to be phased in following successful trials) are as follows:

  • A fast-forensic tool to rapidly analyse seized devices and locate images already known to law enforcement agencies.
  • An image categorisation algorithm to help officers identify and categorise the severity of illegal imagery.
  • The capability to detect images with matching scenes, helping to identify children in indecent images in order to safeguard victims.

What are ‘indecent images’?

The legal term ‘indecent images’ can refer to indecent video, photographs and computer data that’s capable of converting into a photo or video file. The “indecent” aspect is of course for a jury to decide, but the indecent image must be of a ‘child’ (a person under 18 years old), yet it can also extend to animals. Sentencing guidelines vary from possession to distribution and production, but there are three levels of seriousness, which are:

  • Category A – images depicting penetrative sexual activity, sexual activity with an animal or sadism.
  • Category B – images depicting non-penetrative sexual activity.
  • Category C – indecent images outside of categories A or B.

Sentencing guidelines

In addition to the category of the offence, the following factors will also be taken into consideration to determine the penalty:

  • The number of images owned
  • The age of the subject(s) featured in the images
  • The vulnerability of the subject(s)
  • The amount of pain or distress suffered by the subject(s)

It’s very difficult to determine an average punishment as it depends on the category of the offence, the number of indecent images and any other aggravating or mitigating features. Penalties therefore vary considerably from community orders to prison sentences of up to 10 years. Due to the seriousness of the crime, allegations can have severe consequences, impacting upon an individual’s reputation, career, social life and relationships. It’s therefore essential to seek expert legal advice as early as possible.

Here at Noble Solicitors, we’ve represented clients in connection with allegations related to indecent images of children, whilst we operate a 24-hour helpline, with Duty Solicitors and free police station representation. If you are concerned that a friend or family member has been arrested, we encourage you to call us on 07000 81 82 83 at the earliest possible moment.

Read next article