Question from Jason, Is Viewing Extreme Content Online Illegal in England?
Answer from AI:
In England, the legality of viewing extreme pornographic material online is governed by specific legislation. The relevant law is the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, particularly Section 63, which criminalizes the possession of extreme pornographic images. It’s important to understand what constitutes “possession” in the legal sense and how it applies to viewing content online.
Understanding Possession of Extreme Images
According to the law, an individual is in possession of an image if it is:
- On their computer or device.
- In their custody or control, meaning they have the ability to access it.
Furthermore, the individual must know that they possess the image. This does not necessarily mean they need to be aware of the specific content of each image, but they must be aware that they have the images in their possession.
Intentional Viewing and Legal Implications
Intentionally viewing extreme pornographic material on a website could potentially lead to legal issues if the material is saved to the device’s cache, which could be considered as having the image under one’s control. However, the law typically targets the possession of such material, rather than the mere act of viewing it. The distinction here is subtle but important.
Case Law: Okoro  EWCA Crim 1929
The case of Okoro  EWCA Crim 1929 provided guidance on what constitutes possession. The court clarified that:
- The images must be in the suspect’s custody or control such that they can be accessed.
- The suspect must know that they have the images.
The case also noted that unsolicited images sent to a suspect could satisfy the first condition, but the key question is whether the suspect knew they had received the images.
There are statutory defences available for individuals charged with possession of extreme pornographic images. For example, if someone can prove that they did not deliberately seek out the material or that they stumbled upon it accidentally and did not keep it for an unreasonable amount of time, they may have a defence.
Seeking Legal Advice
If you are concerned about the legality of material you have viewed online, or if you are facing charges related to the possession of extreme pornographic images, it is crucial to seek personalized legal advice. A legal professional can provide guidance based on the specifics of your situation and the latest case law.
While the act of intentionally viewing extreme pornographic material on a website may not in itself constitute a criminal offense, the possession of such material, which can include files stored in a device’s cache, is illegal. It is essential to be aware of the laws and to consult with a legal professional if you find yourself in a situation where legal clarification is needed.