‘Child pornography’ – more accurately referred to as ‘child sexual exploitation’ is commonly charged in the UK as offences concerning the possession/distribution of indecent images of children. These can be some of the most emotive and technically challenging of criminal offences involving digital evidence. ‘Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) statistics suggest that 84% of the overall case load for High Tech Crime Units (HTCU) across the UK involves indecent imagery and child abuse investigations. This area of crime is often seen as the ‘dark side of the web’ and as a result is perhaps the least discussed.
Tracing the digital footprint in indecent images of children (IIoC) investigations starts upon the seizure of potential digital evidence. As electronic media is very sensitive, assessments must be undertaken swiftly to avoid corruption or loss of crucial evidentiary material. Computer forensics is the discipline of identifying, extracting and preserving digital evidence found in a wide assortment of digital media – from computer hard disks to the memory contents of a mobile phone.
Forensic analysts experienced in matters involving Indecent Images of Children
From the 40GB home computer to the 2TB Raid 5 UNIX server, computer forensic examinations for indecent images must be conducted in a systematic and consistent manner. These techniques involve fragile data that can easily be hidden, wiped, disguised, cloaked, encrypted or even destroyed from storage media. This work can only be handled by experienced and qualified professionals; the results of the analysis have to withstand the scrutiny of a courtroom.
We offer a 24×7 comprehensive computer forensics investigation service for indecent images of children (IIoC) cases that involves the recovery of digital relevant information. Often the presence of illegal media is only half the story. The more complex questions may concern how the media got onto the computer or smartphone and what happened to it from there. Where police evidence has been prepared, defence lawyers may seek an independent appraisal of the accuracy of technical reports, as well as verification of evidence continuity/integrity, and to conduct further examinations to support a defence case.
Our service includes the post-analysis review of computer forensics and indecent images investigation results and the preparation of a detailed investigation report. If criminal or other legal proceedings are necessary we can produce witness statements and attend court to deliver expert testimony in support of the analysis undertaken, material found, and what inferences or conclusions can be safely drawn.
Court experienced indecent images, child sexual exploitation, digital forensic expert witnesses
Laws and legislation in the United Kingdom related to indecent images (IIoC/CSE) include the Protection of Children Act 1999, Criminal Justice Act 2003, Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the updates in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Get Safe Online is an excellent free resource that helps raise awareness about online risks. Specialist establishments also exist with the goals to prevent and disrupt harmful web content – including acting as central reporting points to assist law enforcement with removal: Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Indecent Images of Children (IIoC)
The ‘Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe’ (COPINE) project originally created a ten point scale to grade the severity of indecent images. In the case of R v OLIVER (2003), the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) modified the COPINE typology and adopted a 1 – 5 grading system:
- Grade 1: Images depicting nudity or erotic posing, with no sexual activity
- Grade 2: Sexual activity between children, or solo masturbation by a child
- Grade 3: Non-penetrative sexual activity between adult(s) and child(ren)
- Grade 4: Penetrative sexual activity between child(ren) and adult(s)
- Grade 5: Sadism or bestiality
In 2014, this scale was simplified again to three categories of severity for indecent images of children:
|CATEGORY A||Possession of images involving penetrative sexual activity. Possession of images involving sexual activity with an animal or sadism||Sharing images involving penetrative sexual activity. Sharing images involving sexual activity with an animal or sadism||Creating images involving penetrative sexual activity. Creating images involving sexual activity with an animal or sadism.|
|CATEGORY B||Possession of images involving non-penetrative sexual activity||Sharing of images involving non-penetrative sexual activity||Creating images involving non-penetrative sexual activity|
|CATEGORY C||Possession of images of erotic posing||Sharing of images of erotic posing||Creating images of erotic posing|
All indecent images of children (IIoC/CSE) investigations are conducted within a physically and electronically secure environment. Our systematic approach to investigations is compliant with Association of Chief Police Officer (ACPO) guidelines and Best Practice recommendations by the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR).
Our forensic specialists are completely independent and accept indecent images (IIoC/CSE) casework instructions on behalf of both the Crown Prosecution Service, Defence Solicitors and corporations.