There are very strict rules concerning the photography or filming of children. Professional photographers, studios, model agencies and casting services must take particular care when handling images of children. This guidance is intended for persons working in legitimate industry and not for persons engaged in or attracted to paedophilia.
The penalty for these offences is an unlimited fine or a term of imprisonment of up to 10 years or both. In addition to the penalties, offenders are liable to be placed on the sex offenders register and be subject to ongoing monitoring after release from any term of imprisonment.
A parent cannot give consent for an indecent image of their child to be taken. In addition, the child cannot give consent for an indecent image to be taken of themselves. If a child does take an indecent image of themselves and sends it to the photographer, studio or agency, then you must have procedures in place to ensure that such images are immediately and permanently deleted from your systems. You are not permitted to distribute or share them with any other person (including internally within your company) except for the Police.
There are three broad categories of indecent imagery of children set out by the Sentencing Advisory Panel. They are all regarded as indecent, but the level of penalty will vary depending upon the categorisation. The Director of Public Prosecutions (who must give their consent to prosecutions for indecent images of children) has set out detailed guidelines for prosecutors.
The categorisation, which came into force on 1st April 2014, is linked to the COPINE scale for indecent imagery:
Category A - These are the most serious offences
Images involving penetrative sexual activity and/or images involving sexual activity with an animal or sadism
Category B - These remain serious offences, but are not as serious as those in category A
Images involving non-penetrative sexual activity
Category C - These are still offences and may typically be the kind of photographs taken for a modelling portfolio. They would still be illegal if they depict a person under 18 years of age.
Other indecent images not falling within categories A or B
Images that are not considered to be indecent
The following types of images of children are not considered to be indecent, but photographers and film-makers are strongly advised to take particular care when filming persons under the age of 18.
It is a question for a jury to determine which category an image falls into, it is not a question of whether or not the photographer thought or intended them to be indecent or not.