Reforming the law on child sexual abuse images

Graeme Horsman

    Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


    In seeking sexual gratification, an individual does not have free reign to seek or produce material of any type with many jurisdictions having sought to legislate on the forms of content that are legally acceptable. As a result, in England and Wales it is illegal to take, make, publish, distribute or possess images depicting child sexual abuse (IDCSA). IDCSA are now arguably considered in today’s society as one of the worst forms of material that can be characterised (albeit incorrectly) as pornographic. Yet despite legislation directly targeting the regulation of IDCSA being in force since the Protection of Children Act 1978, images of this type are still considered to be prevalent, arguably due to the Internet and developments in digital technologies. Now, many IDCSA exist in a digital form on digital devices as opposed to tangible photographs. This transition in form has given rise to a complex area of legal debate, particularly in the areas of establishing possession of digital IDCSA, a focus of this work. This thesis provides a discussion of the harm caused by IDCSA, both to the child depicted and to society, with a chronological analysis of laws surrounding IDCSA in England and Wales presented. The thesis then focuses on the offence of possession of IDCSA and the elements of the current test of possession are examined. Key areas of interest are highlighted in regards to the possession offence, including IDCSA found in the deleted areas of a device, the Internet cache and the impact of encryption. Finally conclusions are drawn and reform suggestions have been proposed, including the implementation of a new offence of 'accessing' IDCSA.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Durham University
    Award date31 Dec 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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