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Photographs of Children - where do you stand?

Photographs of Children - where do you stand? - Legislation concerning indecent photographs of children - governed by the Protection of Children Act 1978.

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Photographs of Children - where do you stand?The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the only authorised organisation in the UK which, amongst other things, provides an internet ‘hotline’ for the public to report their exposure to potentially illegal child abuse images. The IWF works in partnership with the government, police and the UK internet and mobile industry to combat this type of internet content.

So what is the law?
Section 45 of the Sex Offences Act 2003 amended S.1. Protection of Children Act (POCA) 1978 in May 2004 by raising the age of a ‘child’ from 16 to 18.

Now section 1 POCA 1978 makes it an offence to; take, make, allow to take, distribute, show, possess with intent to distribute, or advertise indecent photos or pseudo-photographs of children under the age of 18.

That means, by knowingly looking at an indecent image of a child you are breaking the law in this country. Making or downloading potentially illegal child abuse images is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Within this amendment to the POC Act there are circumstances where a photograph of a person over the age of 16, but under the age of 18 would not be an offence:

Firstly, the defendant must prove that the photograph in question was of the child aged 16 or over and that at the time of the taking or making of the photograph he and the child were married or living together as partners in an enduring family relationship (section 1A(1)).
Secondly, the defendant must show that there is enough evidence to raise an issue as to whether the child consented to the photograph being taken or made, or as to whether the defendant reasonably believed that the child consented (section 1A(4)). Thirdly, the photograph must not be one that shows a person other than the child and the defendant (section 1A(3)).

So what constitutes an illegal image?
It means any images of children, apparently under 18 years old, involved in sexual activity or posed to be sexually provocative and include images depicting erotic posing, with no sexual activity

Only the IWF and the Police are authorised to assess and categorise such images.

Guidelines on taking and displaying photos of children
There is a potential for abuse of any image placed on the internet. This could be by cutting & pasting images, editing images or changing the context within which the images are viewed. Changing images digitally in this way is often called ‘morphing’.

Caution and vigilance is the most effective method of prevention.

Any use of children in images on the net should be suitably contextualised. That is, they should be appropriate for the activity being portrayed. Additionally, care should be taken when using images of children in the way they are dressed and the activity they are taking part in.

Images should also be considered with regard to the child’s body position during the activity, this is particularly relevant in gymnastic, dance and sporting activities, where the body may be in unusual positions.

Exercise great caution as to where you choose to post such images and which online services you use; such as free-to-view photo albums, where anyone can see the photos you have displayed.

The following steps can also be considered to reduce the potential for misuse:

  • Avoid using children's full names in photograph captions. You could consider the use of 1st names, but avoid full names if an image is being shown.
  • Avoid using any names if it is possible from the image to ascertain a specific location, i.e. where a School name is visible in the photo or a well known landmark is in view.
  • The dress of a child should be considered when using the photo. If it is a posed shot, i.e. being presented with a medal or a team photograph, try to ensure that the child is fully clothed, e.g. in a track-suit or similar. If it is an action shot, taken during the activity, try to use profile imagery or avoid, if possible, full length shots. Alternatively, use digital software to blur the child’s facial features
  • Always use a parental consent form to ensure that the parent or guardian is aware that a child’s image is being used. Try to avoid reliance on blanket acceptance procedures as part of consenting to take part in an event.
  • Ensure you have obtained the child's permission to use their image. This ensures that they are aware of the way their image is being used to represent the sport. Use of a suitable permission form would address this.
  • Be aware of the Data Protection Act and the use and storage of materials with people names and images included on them. Specific permissions must be sought for this from the persons and where applicable their parents/guardians.

If you discover an inappropriate image of a child being used on a web-site, make a full report of the web-site to the IWF at www.iwf.org.uk on our simple and easy to use report form.

Further advice and guidelines can be found at:

Photographs of Children - where do you stand?About the Internet Watch Foundation
The UK Internet Industry founded the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in 1996. The IWF is uniquely placed in that it is the only authorised organisation in the UK that provides an Internet ‘Hotline’ for the public to report their exposure to illegal images online. It is strongly supported by the Government and Police to minimise the availability of illegal content on the Internet with particular reference to child abuse images originating anywhere in the world, criminally racist and criminally obscene content hosted in the UK.

It operates independently of Government and receives no annual funding from it. The major part of financial support for the IWF comes from organisations commonly associated with the internet, such as ISP’s, Telco’s, content providers, mobile operators and manufacturers and other relevant organisations.

The IWF, in partnership with many other organisations, has an education and awareness role so that, as more and more people make more and more use of the Internet, some of the problems of Internet use - particularly the risks to children - and the mechanisms for dealing with these problems are better known and understood.

For more information see www.iwf.org.uk
Email: media@iwf.org.uk


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