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Is It Illegal to Take Pictures of Minors Without Permission in the UK?

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There is often some confusion regarding the law on taking photos of minors without permission, which can cause a number of complications given how serious offences relating to indecent imagery can be.

Many people question whether it is illegal to take pictures of minors without permission in the UK, especially where these are taken in a public area and should not be considered indecent.

Here, we discuss what you should keep in mind with regards to this subject, including answering whether it is illegal to take a picture of a child in the UK and what the laws against posting pictures of minors without parental consent look like.

Is it illegal to take a picture of a child in the UK?

In short, no. However, the longer answer to this is much more complicated and, in most instances, is entirely context dependent.

It is legal to take public photographs that feature children, and permission is not required (from the parents of the children in this case). It can be said that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public space, which means that others cannot expect to be free from all forms of photography.

However, that is not to say that taking photos without consent is typically welcomed. Taking ‘targeted’ photography of another person could amount to harassment, and if photographs are taken where a person could reasonably expect privacy (such as in their home or garden), this is likely to breach privacy laws.

While it is not illegal to take pictures of minors without permission in the UK, it is an extremely serious crime to take and possess indecent photographs of children – whether they are taken in a public or private setting.

Can you post pictures of minors without parental consent?

As far as the law is concerned, it is not strictly illegal to publish pictures of minors without parental consent. This is unless the photographs in question are considered to be indecent.

However, guidance from the NSPCC suggests that many parents or carers may be uncomfortable with the idea of images of their children being shared without consent. This may be for a number of reasons, including if:

  • A child or their family previously experienced abuse and are worried about being traced
  • Children choose to minimise online presence to avoid contact with specific family members
  • Families may have religious or cultural reasons so choose not to be photographed

Organisations such as schools, clubs and photography companies are strongly encouraged to have a written photography policy statement that sets out their overall approach to images taken of young people and children.

What is classed as an indecent image of children?

It is a criminal offence to take, to permit to be taken, to make, to possess, show, or to distribute or publish an image of a child posed indecently. For example, this could include a photograph that depicts a child in a sexual way or an adult committing an indecent act where a child is present.

In this case, an ‘image’ can include actual photographs, video footage, drawings or tracings, or images created digitally.

It is important to keep in mind that there is no single statutory definition of what is considered to be ‘indecent’. However, it has been held in the case of a trial before a jury, and it is left to the jury to decide what is indecent by reference as to whether an image offends in relation to standards of propriety.

Indecent images are categorised according to three levels of seriousness. These are:

  • Class A indecent images
  • Class B indecent images
  • Class C indecent images

Class A indecent images are the most serious and typically relate to images which involve penetrative sexual activity and sexual activity with an animal or sadism. Convictions related to Class A indecent images will likely lead to a prison sentence.

Class B indecent images depict non-penetrative sexual activity. This may include actions such as masturbation. These could lead to a prison sentence or community service order.

Class C indecent images are the least severe in the eyes of the law. They usually depict erotic or sexual posing. Sentences will often involve community orders but can be extended to a prison sentence.

Correctly and accurately categorising an image that is considered to be indecent will have a significant bearing on the potential penalty that is handed out.

At JD Spicer, our indecent image solicitors work closely with leading digital forensic experts who can provide an independent review into the categorisation of images and the surrounding circumstances.

Can a child be held criminally responsible for taking or possessing an indecent photograph?

It has become increasingly common for children to take photographs of themselves which are then shared with others or online. By extension, it is also more common for photographs to be considered ‘indecent’ in some way.

Legally, it is possible for someone under the age of 18 to be committing an offence if they are responsible for taking, possessing, or sharing a sexualised image of themselves. While prosecuting authorities will deal with these matters comparatively leniently, the impact of a conviction can be significant.

What are the defences to taking or possessing an indecent photograph of a child?

The range of potential penalties for indecent image offences are wide, with the most serious cases being treated incredibly seriously. However, there are also a range of potential defences which can be used to prevent someone from being convicted or reduce the penalties they are facing.

Defences could include situations where someone is able to demonstrate they had a legitimate reason for taking or possessing an indecent image, such as if it can be shown that they did not know that the image would be classed as indecent or if someone was unaware that any images were saved to their device.

Another potential defence could include where the indecent images relate to ‘research’. However, defining what constitutes research can be difficult and is often something that the courts will treat with a degree of scepticism.

On a statutory level, a defence could also be made to prove that the indecent image depicts someone over the age of 16 and, at the time of the alleged offence, the child was married or in a civil partnership with the defendant and lived together as partners.

What is the maximum sentence for taking or possessing indecent photographs?

As per Sentencing Council, the maximum possible sentence for an indecent image offence relates to the production of Class A indecent images. This offence can lead to a maximum penalty of nine years imprisonment, as well as a placement on the Sexual Offender’s Register.

What is the minimum sentence for taking or possessing indecent photographs?

On the other side, the minimum sentence for an indecent images offence concerns the possession of Class C indecent images. This can lead to a penalty of a medium level community order.

Should I speak to a solicitor if I’m accused of taking photographs of children without consent?

If you are facing an accusation of taking photographs of children without consent, it is important to remember that it is not illegal, although it would be beneficial to find out if you are being accused of Harassment or Stalking. However, if accused of taking indecent photographs it is crucial that you seek specialist legal advice so you can establish your legal rights and what steps may need to be taken.

Many people make the incorrect assumption that speaking to a solicitor will signify guilt in some way. This is not at all accurate as, no matter what your circumstances are, specialist representation at an early stage can make a huge difference to your situation.

At JD Spicer Zeb, our indecent images solicitors have substantial experience in handling these types of matters and will be available to lend their support and advice. We will provide carefully tailored legal representation, and we will take every possible step to ensure that your rights are protected and that you achieve the best possible outcome.

We also work with a leading digital forensics provider Cyfor who can offer fast face to face expert advice on the initial forensic aspect of a police investigation if required. This can cost from around £500 plus VAT. The expert can advise in-depth on lines of forensics the police will deploy and the likely outcome of interrogation of various platforms or devices.

Contact our indecent images defence lawyers today

For a free initial consultation, urgent specialist advice, immediate representation, or to speak to us confidentially about taking pictures of minors without permission or posting pictures of minors without parental consent, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our dedicated indecent images defence lawyers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

24/7 legal representation for indecent images offence allegations

Please get in touch for a free initial consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice on dealing with allegations relating to taking pictures of children without consent.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

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