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6.1 Abusive Images of Children and Information Communication Technology (ICT)

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1. Definition


For the purposes of child protection, abusive images of children can be divided into:

  • Those which are unlawful; and would be categorised within category A, B or C of the sentencing council
  • Material, which although lawful, would give cause for concern and indicate that the person possessing it may pose a risk to children.

Unlawful Material

1.2 An indecent image of a child under the age of 18 years old includes images in photographs, films, negatives, video tape, data stored on digital media that can be converted into a photograph and 'pseudo-photographs' (images made by computers graphics, or other means, which appear to be a photograph). This also covers electronic images created or sent via mobile phones.
1.3 It is for a court to decide what is 'indecent' by application of recognised standards of propriety.
1.4 Possession of indecent material is an offence. Generating, taking, showing or distributing such material amounts to a more serious offence.

Lawful Material


Lawful material falls outside the above definition, but may involve children in an indecent or sexual context. This could include pictures, cartoons, literature or sound recordings e.g. books, magazines, CDs. MP3, audio files.

Images of children may lawfully be held by professionals as part of the treatment or investigation of a case involving sexual abuse of a child(ren), e.g. doctors or police officers, provided that the material is held for that purpose.

2. Recognition

2.1 Abusive images may be found in the possession of those who use it for personal use, financial gain or distributed to children as part of the grooming process.

Use of the Internet

2.2 For young people, the Internet and associated technologies are an intrinsic part of everyday life, offering access the online world twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. This unlimited, and often unsupervised, access to the World Wide Web allows young people to be entertained, maintain contact with their peers and make contact with others online all at the touch of a button.
2.3 As a consequence, the likelihood of young people encountering inappropriate online content (i.e. pornography or violent images) and suffering cyber bullying, identity theft or blackmail has increased. Although many of these dangers are by no means new, the online world and associated technologies provide an easier route, for those who wish to harm or exploit children, to initiate contact or distribute indecent video clips or photographs of young people.
2.4 Social media, online gaming sites (such as Minecraft) and bulletin boards can be used by offenders as a means of contacting children with a view to grooming them for inappropriate or abusive relationships, including requests to make and transmit pornographic images of themselves or to perform sexual acts live in front of a web cam. The impact of sexual abuse of a child who has been groomed by electronic means is similar to that suffered by other sexually abused children but if images of the abuse have been distributed electronically the impact in terms of harm and vulnerability will be increased.
2.5 Parents may wish to seek advice from their internet service provider of software programme's that are available to limit access to sites that may be unsuitable for children. There is lots of advice available online (see for example UK Safer Internet Centre or CEOP).


The Voyeurism (Offences) Act, which is commonly known as the Upskirting Act, came into force on 12 April 2019. ‘Upskirting’ is where someone takes a picture under a persons clothing (not necessarily a skirt) without their permission and or knowledge, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks (with or without underwear) to obtain sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm. It is a criminal offence. Anyone of any gender, can be a victim.

3. Response


Where there is suspected or actual evidence of anyone accessing or creating indecent images of children, this must be referred to the Police and Children’s Social Care (CSC) in accordance with the  Referral and Assessment Procedure.

Where there are concerns about a child being groomed, exposed to pornographic material or contacted by someone inappropriately, a referral should be made to the Police and CSC.

Children, young people and parents are also encouraged to report their concerns directly to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) where trained Child Protection Officers will investigate the incident and take appropriate action.

Click here to view the Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection Centre (CEOP) website.

Due to the nature of this type of abuse and the possibility of the destruction of evidence, the referrer should first discuss their concerns with the Police and CSC before raising the matter with the family. This will enable a decision to be made about informing the family and ensuring that the child’s welfare is safeguarded.

All such reports should be taken seriously. Most referrals will be followed by a Child and Family Single Assessment and information should be shared between the Police and CSC in order to determine whether a strategy meeting should take place.


A Strategy Discussion will be held whenever it is suspected a parent / carer or someone with access to children in other contexts e.g. employment:

  • Is in possession of child abusive images of children; and / or
  • Has taken, shown or distributed child abusive images of children; and / or
  • Has used the internet or mobile technology to make inappropriate approaches to children.
3.3 The Strategy Discussion must consider all access the individual has to children and initiate a Section 47 Enquiry whenever it is confirmed that a parent or carer of child/ren, or someone with access to child/ren has been involved in one or more of the activities detailed above.
3.4 Self-generated indecent images often referred to as Sexting should still be responded to. Practitioners will need to explore if there is any coercion or where the image was sent. Schools and colleges can access additional information in the UK Council for Internet Safety, Sexting in schools and colleges: Responding to incidents and safeguarding young people

Further information and resources

This page is correct as printed on Friday 27th of May 2022 12:29:32 AM please refer back to this website ( for updates.