Child sex offences & indecent images

Sexual offences committed against children (under the age of 18) are covered under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. If such an accusation is made against you and you have been contacted by the police or been charged with an offence, please contact our dedicated and experienced team of solicitors on 0203 816 1098.

The law divides sexual offences against children into different age groups: children under 13, under 16 and under 18. Outlined below is a list of the main offences that can result in someone being accused of a sexual offence against a child and the possible penalties.

These types of cases can also relate to historic allegations that can date back many years. It is important that you seek our expert legal advice as soon as an allegation is made against you.

The thought of attending the police station or court in respect of an allegation of this nature can be a nerve wracking experience for most individuals, but our dedicated team of experienced solicitors and barristers are on hand to assist you every step of the way. Cases like this are usually dealt with at the Crown Court and it is therefore imperative that you seek legal representation.

loading staff

Offences against children under 13

  • Rape
  • Assault by penetration: with any body part or other object
  • Sexual assault: touching a child sexually
  • Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity

Sentences for people found guilty range from a maximum of life imprisonment for the most serious offences to a maximum of 14 years’ custody for the other offences.

Offences against children under 16

As the law recognises the age of consent to be 16, any sexual activity involving consenting children under 16 is unlawful.

The range of offences affecting this age group are:

  • Sexual activity with a child: intentional sexual touching by a person aged 18 or over on someone under 16
  • Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity: by a person aged 18 or over
  • Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child: by a person aged 18 or over with the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification
  • Causing a child to watch a sexual act: either someone engaging in sex or an image of someone engaging in sex
  • Arranging and facilitating a child sex offence
  • Child sex offences committed by children or young people: any of the offences above committed by a person under 18

These offences carry maximum sentences of between 10 and 14 years for people found guilty except for people under 18, whose maximum penalties are between six months and five years’ imprisonment.

Offences against children under 18

These offences relate to people who have a particular responsibility in their relationship with a child which overrules any consent the child might have given to sexual activity. The offences include:

  • Abuse of position of trust: providing protection for young people (16-17) considered vulnerable to exploitation by someone in a position of trust or authority
  • Sex offences within the family: covering people who live with a child and have a family relationship or position of trust or authority, such as family members, adoptive parents, foster parents or married/co-habiting partners

The potential maximum sentence when found guilty of an offence ranges from five years to 14 years.

Abuse of children through prostitution or pornography

There are specific offences relating to the use of children (aged under 18) in the sex industry:

  • Paying for the sexual services of a child
  • Causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography
  • Controlling a child prostitute or child involved in pornography
  • Arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography

Penalties for these offences range from a maximum of seven years to life imprisonment.

Indecent photographs of children

Two laws cover this area of child sex offences: the Protection of Children Act 1978 (PCA 1978) and the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (CJA 1988).

Under the PCA 1978, an offence is committed if a person deliberately or knowingly took, made, permitted to be taken, distributed or showed indecent photographs (or pseudo-photographs created by computer or other graphic method) of a child or possessed them in order to distribute or show them or published any advertisement for indecent photographs of children.

The CJA 1988 covers the offence of possession of an indecent photograph of a child.

Maximum penalties for these offences range from six months’ imprisonment and/or the maximum fine to five years under the CJA and 10 years under the PCA.

Offenders are also subject to ancillary orders which includes signing the sex offenders register and a Sexual Offences Prevention Order which means adults are barred from engaging in regulated activity with children.

Revenge porn

In April 2015, the government introduced new legislation for people who share sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent.

‘Revenge porn is the sharing of private sexual images (or videos) of another person without the subjects consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress’

Under this piece of legislation, a suspect convicted of an offence of this nature, can face a prison sentence of up to 6 months in the Magistrates Court and up to 2 years at the Crown Court.

An example of revenge porn would be an ex partner uploading a sexual explicit image of the victim to the internet, Facebook or Twitter or sending the image to their friends or family. It is irrelevant whether victim consented to the image being taken in the first place. If the image is uploaded without their consent and with the intention of causing distress, humiliation and embarrassment to the victim, then the police are likely to prosecute.

If the images taken are of a person under the age of 18, further offences may be considered under the Protection of Children Act 1978.

If you have been asked to attend an interview by the police or you are at any stage of criminal prosecution, please contact us on 0203 816 1098. Alternatively, complete our online enquiry form and one of our team will contact you directly to discuss your situation.


We're widely accredited for our work - regulatory & criminal justice

  • Legal 500

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf. Over the years our regulatory and criminal justice team has been recognised by industry awards and accredited for their excellence.

Memberships & accreditations

8.5 out of 10
Trustpilot logo4-stars on trustpilot Based on count 310

We're Great

It is our business to deliver legal services that work for our clients, and you can trust our specialists to take care of things on your behalf.

Our Trustpilot reviews

Immediate support in a difficult situation resulted in a positive outcome. All concerned including the appointment of an appropriate Barrister should be congratulated on a very professional job well done.
View from a criminal defence & appeals client

Met Police lose 'landmark' Supreme Court appeal

Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Appellant) v DSD and another (Respondents) [2018] UKSC 11 On appeal from [2015] EWCA Civ 646 Justices : Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Kerr, Lord Hughes The Supreme Court has today given...

Read more

Twitter block 1 tweet

Life as a graduate paralegal in the regulatory department

Brea Carney-Jones is a graduate paralegal in the regulatory  department based in our Wigan office, here she shares her day-to-day experience to give you an insight into what life is like for a law graduate at Stephensons... Monday ...

Read more

Crime reorder

  • Sean Joyce
  • Mike Pemberton
  • Neal Boland
  • Martin Pizzey
  • Correna Platt
  • Steven Swift
  • Chris Maloney
  • Alison Marriott
  • Duncan Phillips
  • Colin Rawson
  • Andrea Woods
  • Peter Krepski
  • ​Bob Toppin
  • Cecilia Goodwin
  • Martin Jones

We're always here for you

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.

Find your nearest Stephensons office and arrange a meeting

As an award-winning top 150 law firm, with over 450 staff based in offices across the country, you're never far from the advice you need.