Child pornography is wrong, there are no two ways about it. Children are innocent and anything which purports to take away the innocence of our children is wrong, abhorrent and should be stopped. But what is child pornography? You may recall a number of cases over recent years where the police and the Courts have had to decide whether “art” involving children in various poses was classified as “pornography”.

Since 1999, the Interpol Standing Working Group on Offenses Against Minors has used the following definition:

“Child pornography is the consequence of the exploitation or sexual abuse perpetrated against a child. It can be defined as any means of depicting or promoting sexual abuse of a child, including print and/or audio, centered on sex acts or the genital organs of children.”

Many scholars and law enforcement agencies choose not to use the word “pornography” as this can carry the inaccurate implication of and create distance from the abusive nature of the material. Instead, terms such as “child abuse images” or “depicted child sexual abuse” are used. But, to all intents and purposes, they are the same thing.

In the late 1990s, the COPINE project (“Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe”) was developed for therapeutic psychological purposes and was used to distinguish between child erotica and child pornography. In cooperation with the Paedophile Unit of the London Metropolitan Police, this was then used to categorize child abuse images for use in both research and law and provided ten levels of severity.

The COPINE scale is as follows:

Level – 1
Type – Indicative
Description – Non-erotic and non-sexualised pictures showing children in their underwear, swimming costumes from either commercial sources or family albums. Pictures of children playing in normal settings, in which the context or organisation of pictures by the collector indicates inappropriateness.

Level – 2
Type -Nudist
Discription – Pictures of naked or semi-naked children in appropriate nudist settings, and from legitimate sources.

Level – 3
Type – Erotica
Description – Surreptitiously taken photographs of children in play areas or other safe environments showing either underwear or varying degrees of nakedness.

Level – 4
Type – Posing
Description – Deliberately posed pictures of children fully clothed, partially clothed or naked (where the amount, context and organisation suggests sexual interest).

Level – 5
Type – Erotic Posing
Description – Deliberately posed pictures of fully, partially clothed or naked children in sexualised or provocative poses.

Level – 6
Type – Explicit Erotic Posing
Description – Pictures emphasising genital areas, where the child is either naked, partially clothed or fully clothed.

Level – 7
Type – Explicit Sexual Activity
Description – Pictures that depict touching, mutual and self-masturbation, oral sex and intercourse by a child, not involving an adult.

Level – 8
Type – Assault
Description – Pictures of children being subject to a sexual assault, involving digital touching, involving an adult.

Level – 9
Type – Gross Assault
Description – Grossly obscene pictures of sexual assault, involving penetrative sex, masturbation or oral sex, involving an adult.

Level – 10
Type – Sadistic/Bestiality
a. Pictures showing a child being tied, bound, beaten, whipped or otherwise subject to something that implies pain.
b. Pictures where an animal is involved in some form of sexual behaviour with a child.

However, in the Court of Appeal case of R v Oliver, Hartrey and Baldwin [Times Law Report, 6 December 2002], the Court divided indecent images of children into five categories, and gave sentencing guidelines based on these categories.

In looking at the nature of the material the Sentencing Council has categorised such material into five levels of seriousness with level five being the most serious.

Level one: Images of erotic posing, with no sexual activity;
Level two: Non-penetrative sexual activities between children, or solo masturbation by a child;
Level three: Non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children;
Level four: Penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children and adults;
Level five: Sadism or involving the penetration of, or by, an animal.

There are many arguments over what images would fall into what categories and there have been a number of cases heard in the Courts to determine this, but ultimately, in the unlikely event an image is challenged, prosecutors should refer the judge to the definitive guideline and the original COPINE typology to provide guidance.

The age of the child is now also classified as an aggravating factor and police officers should be encouraged to ensure that images are divided not only according to the categories set out above but also as to whether the child is under 13 years, or 13 – 15 years and 16 – 17 years old.

If you are worried that you, or any children that you know, have been the subject of anything which may have been classed as “child pornography”, and would like further guidance on this, please contact one of our speciailist child abuse lawyers in confidence on 0800 9555 094


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