How many indecent image cases get dropped – and why?

In a world where technology and the internet have become deeply embedded in our daily lives, cases involving the possession of indecent images of children have unfortunately become more prevalent. The legal system seeks to safeguards the vulnerable and prosecute those responsible for such offences. Nevertheless, not all cases culminate in convictions, as some indecent image cases get dropped.

Written by specialist solicitor, Jacqui Callan, this blog first explores how many indecent cases get dropped. It then delves into the intricacies of indecent image cases, the reasons behind their discontinuation and the importance of achieving a fair and just resolution within the legal framework.

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What is an indecent image?

An indecent image is any sexual image of a child (anyone under the age of 18). To be classed as an indecent image in UK law, it must feature nude or partially clothed children, or any child posing sexually in self-generated images.

What are indecent image offences?

It is illegal to produce, distribute, or possess indecent images of children. These crimes carry heavy sentences, including prison time. The exact nature of the punishment will vary based on the category of the indecent images case, with all cases being placed into category A, B, or C depending on the nature of the image, the age of the child depicted, and the volume of the images.

Visit our indecent image solicitors page for further information on the law surrounding indecent images in the UK.


How many indecent image cases get dropped?

The exact number of indecent image cases that get dropped vary from year to year. These numbers are typically not widely publicised due to the sensitive nature of the cases and the potential impact on those depicted in the images and the accused. However, for various reasons, a significant number of indecent image cases do get dropped each year.

Understanding the factors leading to the discontinuation of such cases sheds light on the complexities of our legal system. From insurmountable hurdles in evidence, to issues surrounding the protection of the accused’s rights, it’s a multifaceted issue that touches the lives of both those facing accusations and the victims involved.

The CPS and the police will examine each indecent image case on its own merit. They will analyse the number of images, the nature of the images as well as the technical nature of the evidence, the authenticity of the images and the credibility of the evidence overall. Like all criminal cases, indecent image cases tend to be dropped where there is no realistic prospect of conviction.


Common reasons for discontinued cases

  1. Lack of evidence: In any criminal case, the onus of proof rests with the prosecution. If there is insufficient or unreliable evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the case may be discontinued.
  2. Violations of the defendant’s rights: The legal system necessitates that law enforcement and the prosecution adhere to the defendant’s rights. If these rights are infringed, such as through an unlawful search or seizure, the case may be dismissed.
  3. The defence provides evidence that causes the CPS to reconsider their evidence: This could include digital forensic evidence. 
  4. Technical errors in the investigation: Mistakes or technical errors during the investigation can jeopardise the integrity of the evidence. Defence lawyers may challenge these errors, leading to the police not charging or the CPS dropping the case.
  5. Prosecutorial discretion: Prosecutors possess the authority to decide which cases to pursue. They may discontinue a case if they believe it lacks merit, is unlikely to result in a conviction, or if other legal or practical considerations apply.


One significant factor in the outcomes of indecent image cases is the quality of legal representation. Criminal defence solicitors often play a vital role in challenging evidence, procedural errors, and the credibility of witnesses. Skilled solicitors ensure that the defendant’s rights are protected and that the legal process is fair.

Get in touch today for a confidential discussion of your case.


Challenges faced by prosecutors

Prosecutors encounter their own set of challenges when pursuing indecent image cases. The burden of proof is high, and they must provide strong and compelling evidence. In some cases, they may struggle to meet this standard, resulting in discontinued charges.


Balancing justice and fairness

The legal system strives to strike a balance between delivering justice, protecting the rights of the accused, and ensuring the safety of children. This delicate balance necessitates continuous improvement in the legal process to reduce wrongful accusations while safeguarding those who are vulnerable.

In conclusion, indecent image cases that are discontinued are the result of a complex interplay of factors. While some may perceive these outcomes as a failure of the legal system, it is essential to remember that justice requires a meticulous and fair process. 


Indecent images case study

Jacqui Callan was instructed to represent a client who was faced allegations of possession of indecent images and possession of prohibited images. The  client entered not guilty pleas and the case was set down for a crown court trial. Forensic experts were instructed on the clients behalf to examine whether there were any  search terms indicative of searching for indecent images and to examine if the files identified by the prosecution expert had relevant file names that would have been apparent to the client. 

With the skilful analysis of the evidence by trusted  forensic experts a detailed report was served on the CPS that  not only showed  the file names would not have been accessible to the client  but that the images had  been wrongly graded and were in fact not  indecent. This resulted in not guilty verdicts being entered. The client was in employment and sought the advice of  Jacqui Callan, who heads up our criminal defence team at Richard Nelson LLP and also our employment team who were able to advise on his employment rights following  a threatened suspension. The client remains happily in employment.  


How we can help

If you would like more information or assistance regarding an investigation or prosecution relating to indecent images, please contact us as soon as possible for a confidential discussion with a member of our expert criminal defence team.


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