‘Child abuse images’ (Copine scale)

COPINE “Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe”

FIRST we need to get the terminology right — They are child abuse images or indecent images of children. It is NOT child pornography: every photograph depicts a real child being sexually abused.

Every picture is a crime scene where a real child is abused or exploited !

In the last two years (2012), nearly 26 million child abuse images have been confiscated in England and Wales. The total comes from just five of the 43 police forces in England and Wales which were able to check their records.

The figures are in stark contrast to 1990 – before the internet became hugely popular – when the Home Office estimated there were just 7,000 hard copy images in circulation in the UK. Now, at least five times that amount are being confiscated every single day.

In some investigations the sheer scale of images is so immense that police concentrate on a sample.

The pictures are graded from level one – the lowest – to category five, which involves sadism. Many of the pictures involve children under 10 and even babies appear in some

Indecent images of children refers to images or films (also known as child abuse images) and in some cases, writings depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child. Abuse of the child occurs during the sexual acts which are recorded in the production of child pornography, and several professors of psychology state that memories of the abuse are maintained as long as visual records exist, are accessed, and are “exploited perversely.”

The COPINE Scale is a rating system created in Ireland and used in the United Kingdom to categorise the severity of images of child sex abuse, and thus use in the sentencing of offenders in a UK court of law.

The sentencing guidelines from the Sentencing Council should be applied in determining mode of trial for cases involving indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children.

In looking at the nature of the material the Sentencing Council has categorised such material into five levels of seriousness with level five being the most serious.

Level one: Images of erotic posing, with no sexual activity;

Level two: Non-penetrative sexual activities between children, or solo masturbation by a child;

Level three: Non-penetrative sexual activity between adults and children;

Level four: Penetrative sexual activity involving a child or children, or both children and adults;

Level five: Sadism/Torture or involving the penetration of, or by, an animal.

The age of the child is now an aggravating factor and police officers should be encouraged to ensure that images are divided not only according to the categories set out above, but also as to whether the child is under 13 years, or 13 – 15 years and 16 – 17 years old.

When dealing with cases involving thousands of images police officers have approached the CPS in order to determine at what point they can stop looking at images. It is a matter for the police to decide how many images to view. If the police decide not to view all the images that is a risk analysis only they are able to take. There is of course always the danger that if only 100,000 images out of 500,000 are viewed that image 100,001 may show the suspect abusing a child.

The revised five-point scale answers one of the criticisms that had previously been leveled against it, that being that penetrative activity between minors has been raised from level 2 to level 4, an important and significant change. However it has failed to answer one criticism and raised a potential question.

Level 1 images continue to refer to erotic posing and the question has sometimes been raised as to whether that means that non-posed photographs, particularly those that could be construed as naturist photographs, are indecent or not. It is important to note that the sentencing guideline is relevant solely to the issue of sentence and not what does, or does not, amount to an indecent photograph.

Legal definitions of child abuse images generally include sexual images involving prepubescents and pubescent or post-pubescent minors and computer-generated images that appear to involve them. Most possessors of child abuse mages who are arrested are found to possess images of prepubescent children; possessors of indecentc images of post-pubescent minors are less likely to be prosecuted, even though those images also fall within the statutes.

Child abuse images are among the fastest growing criminal segments on the Internet. Producers of child pornography try to avoid prosecution by distributing their material across national borders, though this issue is increasingly being addressed with regular arrests of suspects from a number of countries occurring over the last few years. The prepubescent pornography is viewed and collected by paedophiles for a variety of purposes, ranging from private sexual uses, trading with other paedophiles, preparing children for sexual abuse as part of the process known as “child grooming” or enticement leading to entrapment for sexual exploitation, such as production of new child pornography or child prostitution. Child pornography is illegal and censored in most jurisdictions in the world.