Court of Appeal decisions relating to pornography and voyeurism
The terms of a sexual offences prevention order imposed on an offender who had been sentenced for voyeurism, which included an almost blanket ban on using the internet, were changed where its terms did not conform to the guidance given in R. v Smith (Steven)  EWCA Crim 1772 with the result that it was unworkable and disproportionate.
The court upheld a sexual harm prevention order, imposed for an indefinite duration, where an offender had received concurrent suspended prison sentences of 18 months after pleading guilty to three offences of possession of indecent photographs of a child and one offence of possessing an extreme pornographic image. Although the order had been imposed in circumstances which were far from satisfactory because the judge had not given explicit reasons to support the making of an indefinite order, the offender had given no indication whatsoever that he would address his offending behaviour and its causes. An order for an indefinite duration was necessary and proportionate.
To establish “possession” for the purposes of the offences of possessing indecent images of children or extreme pornographic images, the prosecution had to establish (a) that the images were within the accused’s custody or control so that he was capable of accessing them, and (b) that he had known that he possessed images. Where unsolicited images were sent to the accused by the messaging application “WhatsApp” and automatically downloaded to his phone’s memory, it was highly likely that (a) would be made out; whether (b) was made out would depend on whether he knew he had received images.
A sentence of 17 years and 2 months’ imprisonment with an eight-year extension period imposed for child sex offences was justified as the offender had carried out the systemic and sustained abuse of his step-daughter from age 6 to 11 and of her cousin, who suffered from autism, at age 12.
An extended sentence of 39 years, with a custodial term of 33 years, imposed in respect of a very large number of serious sexual offences against young girls was manifestly excessive; the appropriate custodial term was 30 years. The judge had also erred in adding up the consecutive sentences to reach the overall custodial term before imposing an extension period on the total: it was the overall extended determinate sentences that had to be consecutive, not just the custodial terms.
A total sentence of five years’ imprisonment imposed following guilty pleas to making indecent images of children, distributing indecent images of children, possessing extreme pornographic images and causing a child to engage in sexual activity was reduced to four years. The sentencing judge had failed to categorise properly the nature of the defendant’s activity relating to the imagery in accordance with the relevant sentencing guidelines, in particular that he had simply downloaded the majority of the indecent photographs rather than participating in their production.
The purpose of the legislation making it a crime punishable with imprisonment to have sexual relations with those under 16 years was to protect those under 16. A reduction of punishment on the basis that the victim encouraged the commission of the offence was wrong. The victim’s vulnerability was an aggravating rather than a mitigating feature.
In calculating the time to be served pursuant to an order under the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 s.116, justice required account to be taken of time spent in prison between recall to custody to serve the balance of a licence period for a previous offence and sentencing for a new offence committed while on licence.
When sentencing an offender for making and distributing indecent images of children, a judge had been entitled to take a high starting point above the sentencing guidelines to reflect the scale, gravity and grotesqueness of the material before him. However, extended sentences relating to possession of such images had to be corrected as they exceeded the maximum sentences allowable.
The court set out guidance on factors to be considered when making sexual offences prevention orders alongside other sentences and in respect of computer and internet use, personal contact with children and occupations or activities which were likely to bring the defendant into contact with children.
Evidence which was sought to be admitted under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.101(1)(d) as evidence of propensity was not inadmissible simply because the behaviour it evidenced post-dated the offences being tried.
A sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years on condition that the offender take part in a sex offender treatment programme and carry out community work, was appropriate in the case of a 22-year-old man who had pleaded guilty to offences of viewing child pornography on the internet and one chatline offence of inciting a girl aged 13 to engage in sexual activity.
In a trial in which the defendant was charged with sexual offences, the judge had been wrong to admit “bad character” evidence suggesting that the defendant was a voyeur.
The imposition of a suspended custodial sentence for a basic offence of voyeurism was inappropriate where the offender had pleaded guilty and was a man of good character.
It was inappropriate to impose a sentence of imprisonment for public protection pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 s.225 on an offender convicted of making indecent photographs of children, because the link between the offending act of downloading images and the possible harm to children was too remote to satisfy the requirement that the offender’s reoffending would cause serious harm.
In relation to a charge of possessing indecent photographs of a child, a jury had been well aware of the issues it had to assess in considering whether a defendant knew that there was a likelihood that automatic “pop-up” mechanisms or redirections to other websites on legal, albeit pornographic, websites would occur and whether if, upon accessing the legal website, the “pop-ups” would contain separate illegal images.