Top tips on how to deal with child sexual abuse images at work
- Must act genuinely to prevent, investigate, or detect crime under the Protection of Children Act 1978 as amended by Section 46 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
- Must be acting in their professional capacity with an identified role when “making” copies;
- Must restrict access and securely store images;
- Must be reported in a timely manner; No making more copies of each image than is needed in all the circumstances: e.g. an individual reporting an image seen on a website does not need to examine the rest of the site or similar sites;
- No irrelevant distribution or unnecessary personal storage.
A guide as to who should be contacted:
- Suspect child sexual abuse images on the internet – the Internet Watch Foundation;
- Suspect child sexual abuse images deliberately saved on electronic devices – the police.
1. Know the Law
It is important that you understand the law regarding indecent images of children. Specifically:
- It is illegal to possess, distribute, show and make indecent images of children;
- Making of indecent images of children includes viewing them on the internet otherwise known as ‘downloading’.
2. Know how the law affects you:
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 provides IT professionals in England and Wales with a conditional defence when finding indecent images of children during the course of their work. Specifically:
Provides a defence for making copies of abusive images of children: to allow persons acting in their professional capacity when necessary to do so without fear of prosecution.
- The Memorandum of Understanding to Section 46 of the SOA 2003 between the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers
The aim of the memorandum is to help clarify the position of IT professionals so that they will be reassured of legal protection where they are acting to combat the creation and distribution of images of child sexual abuse.
3. Organisational Policies
All organisations should have a clear policy on how to deal with indecent images of children, including:
- acceptable use of electronic devices provided by the organisation;
- how to deal with staff found in possession of indecent images of children;
- what to do if indecent images of children are discovered.
4. Staff Awareness
For organisational policies to be effective they must be accessible to the workforce, and each member of staff needs to be aware of its contents.
There are a number of measures that can help prevent accidental access to potentially criminal child sexual abuse images. These include:
- increase the security of your electronic devices, install virus protection software, firewalls and web filtering;
- ensure staff are aware of the criminal nature of such images and the consequences they may face both in terms of the law and their employment if these are discovered in the workplace or on equipment provided by the organisation.
*We use the term child sexual abuse to reflect the gravity of the images and videos we deal with. Child pornography, child porn and kiddie porn are not acceptable descriptions. A child cannot consent to their own abuse.