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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 14:10 GMT
Q&A: Internet child porn
With increasing police investigations into child porn on the internet, BBC News Online asks John Carr, assistant director of the Children and Technology Unit at the charity NCH, what is the legal position for web users

What is illegal?

Looking at an indecent picture of a child on the internet is not actually a crime, because it might not be a deliberate act.

But a crime is committed if that image is copied or forwarded to someone else.

This is classed as making and distributing indecent images of children and is taken very seriously. The penalty is a custodial sentence of up to 10 years.

A crime is also committed if someone registers their credit card details with a child porn site, as this shows they have deliberately looked for such images.

They could face a custodial sentence of up to five years.

If someone downloads any such images onto their hard drive they are also committing a crime and face up to five years in prison.

What if you inadvertently stumble across child porn pictures?

It is hard to just stumble across child porn on the internet, but if it does happen you are not committing a crime because it was not deliberate.

What should you do in this situation?

You should make a note of the web page address and exit is as soon as possible.

You should then report it to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), whose job it is to monitor and tackle illegal and offensive content on the internet.

The police prefer the IWF to deal with such issues initially as it can filter out what is illegal and what is not.

Some images, however much they offend and upset people are not illegal.

What if you are sent indecent child images by someone you do or do not know?

Again, viewing it is not a crime but it should be deleted as soon as possible and reported to the IWF.

How tough is the legal system on offenders?

Child porn offences on the net carry tough custodial sentences, but the severity of the offence is taken into account.

If a person has downloaded one image onto their hard drive they are unlikely to be sent to prison.

But if they have a number of images and they are particularly vile then they will be treated far more severely.


Growing menace

Tackling the threat
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