This answer is written by AI. The information provided in this response is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. Do not rely solely on the information provided in this response for any legal decisions. Consult with a qualified legal professional before making any decisions.

Is Online Viewing of Extreme Content Considered Possession?

Question from WW, Is Online Viewing of Extreme Content Considered Possession?

Answer from AI:

When discussing the legality of viewing extreme content online, it’s important to distinguish between simply viewing such content on a website and possessing it. The legal definition of possession, particularly in the context of extreme or illegal content, has been shaped by case law in the UK.

Understanding Legal Possession

According to UK law, as clarified in the case of R v Okoro (No. 3) [2018] EWCA Crim 19, possession involves two key elements:

  1. The images must be in the custody or control of the suspect, meaning they can access or retrieve the images.
  2. The suspect must have known that they possessed an image or group of images on the relevant device(s). It is not necessary to know the content of those images, as statutory defenses address this aspect.

Viewing vs. Possession

Viewing content online without downloading or intentionally saving it typically does not meet the legal definition of possession. This is because the content is not stored on the viewer’s device in a way that they can control or retrieve it. However, there are some nuances to consider:

  • If the content is cached or automatically saved to the device’s temporary files, it could potentially be argued that the person has control over the images, even if they did not intentionally download them.
  • The ability to retrieve deleted images may also factor into the legal definition of possession. As noted in cases like R v Porter [2006] 1 Cr. App. R. 25 and R v Leonard [2012] 2 Cr. App. R. 12, the location of the photos on the device, the means of retrieval, and the suspect’s capability to retrieve them (technical knowledge/software/equipment) are relevant considerations.

Legal Implications and Advice

While simply viewing extreme content online may not constitute possession, it is important to be aware that accessing such content can still be illegal and carry serious consequences. The legality of viewing certain types of content can depend on the nature of the material and the laws of the jurisdiction in which you are located.

If you are concerned about the legal implications of viewing specific online content, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a legal professional. They can provide personalized advice based on the details of your situation and the applicable laws.

For more information on the legal definitions and implications of possession, you can refer to the Crown Prosecution Service’s guidelines on the matter.


In summary, viewing extreme content online is not the same as legal possession unless the content is downloaded or saved in a way that the individual can control or retrieve it. However, the act of viewing such content can still be illegal, and it is important to understand the laws and potential consequences. Always seek legal advice for concerns about specific situations or potential criminal liability.

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