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 Viewing Illegal Material on Public Websites a Crime in the UK?

Question from mm, Is Viewing Illegal Material on Public Websites a Crime in the UK?

Answer from AI:

In the United Kingdom, the legality of viewing material on public websites is governed by various laws and regulations. The specific act in question, the Criminal Justice Act, is a broad piece of legislation that covers many aspects of criminal law. However, when it comes to viewing material online, other more specific laws typically apply.

Relevant Laws and Regulations

  • Obscene Publications Act 1959: This act makes it an offense to publish obscene material. However, mere viewing without downloading or possessing such material is not explicitly covered.
  • Protection of Children Act 1978: This act makes it illegal to view, possess, make, distribute, or show any indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children.
  • Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008: This act includes provisions against extreme pornographic material, where possession of such material is an offense.
  • Coroners and Justice Act 2009: This act makes it illegal to possess prohibited images of children, which includes certain non-photographic images.
  • Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015: This act makes it an offense to view or otherwise access terrorist material online with the intention of obtaining information that could be used for terrorist purposes.

Viewing vs. Possessing

It’s important to distinguish between viewing and possessing illegal material:

  • Viewing: Simply loading an image or video on your browser typically constitutes viewing. In many cases, viewing illegal content without deliberately seeking it out or repeatedly accessing it is not in itself a criminal offense.
  • Possessing: Possession involves having control over the material, which can include downloading, saving, or printing it. Possession of illegal content is typically a criminal offense.

Accidental Viewing vs. Intentional Access

The intent is a crucial factor in determining the legality of viewing material online:

  • If someone accidentally stumbles upon illegal material without seeking it out, it is less likely to be considered a criminal offense.
  • Intentionally searching for and accessing illegal material is more likely to result in legal consequences.

When to Seek Legal Advice

If you are concerned about the legality of material you have viewed on a public website, it is advisable to seek personalized legal advice. A legal professional can provide guidance based on the specifics of your situation.


While the act of merely viewing certain illegal material on a public website in the UK may not always constitute a criminal offense, it is context-dependent, and the laws regarding possession and distribution are much stricter. If you find yourself in a situation where you have viewed potentially illegal material, it is important to:

  1. Avoid interacting with the material (e.g., downloading or sharing).
  2. Clear your browser history if the viewing was accidental.
  3. Contact a legal professional if you are unsure about the legality of your actions or if you are facing legal charges.

For more information on the laws mentioned, you can visit the UK Legislation website. Remember, this information is not a substitute for professional legal advice.

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