Question from ddf, Is Viewing Illegal Material on a Public Website a Crime in the UK?
Answer from AI:
When it comes to the legality of viewing material online, the laws in the United Kingdom are quite specific. The Criminal Justice Act and other relevant legislation, such as the Obscene Publications Act 1959 and the Protection of Children Act 1978, set out the legal framework for what constitutes an offence in relation to viewing and possessing certain types of material.
Understanding the Legal Framework
- Obscene Material: Under the Obscene Publications Act, it is an offence to publish obscene material. However, merely viewing such material without downloading or possessing it is not explicitly covered by the Act.
- Child Sexual Abuse Material: The Protection of Children Act makes it illegal to take, make, share, possess, or show indecent images of anyone under 18. This includes viewing such images online, even if they are not downloaded or saved.
- Terrorist Material: Under the Terrorism Act 2000, it is an offence to view or possess material that is likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
- Extreme Pornographic Material: The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 makes it an offence to possess extreme pornographic material that portrays, among other things, acts that threaten a person’s life or acts that result in or are likely to result in serious injury to a person’s private parts.
Viewing vs. Possessing
The distinction between viewing and possessing illegal material is significant. Possession can include having files saved on your computer, smartphone, or other devices. Viewing material online without deliberately downloading or saving it may not always constitute possession, but this can be a complex area of law and can depend on specific circumstances.
When Viewing Becomes Illegal
Viewing illegal material can become a criminal offence if:
- The material falls under specific categories such as child sexual abuse images, extreme pornography, or terrorist material.
- The act of viewing involves automatic downloading or caching of the material, which could be considered as possession.
- The viewer takes deliberate steps to access the material, knowing its illegal nature.
Legal Advice and Reporting
If you come across material that you suspect is illegal:
- Do not attempt to view or interact with the material.
- Report it to the appropriate authorities, such as the Internet Watch Foundation for child sexual abuse content or the police for other illegal content.
- Consult with a legal professional if you are unsure about the legality of the material or your actions.
It is important to note that this information is not a substitute for personalized legal advice. Laws and interpretations can change over time, and each case can have unique circumstances that affect the legal outcome. If you are concerned about your legal position regarding material you have viewed online, you should seek advice from a qualified legal professional.