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Dear Mr Mortimer,
Thank you for your email of 5 November to Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP regarding the law on pornographic portrayals of rape and child pornography. Your email has been transferred to the Ministry of Justice which has responsibility for the law in this area and as a government official, I have been asked to respond. I do apologise for the length of time this has taken.
In your email you suggest that the existing law does not cover the possession of pornographic depictions of rape. That is not the case: section 37 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”) amended the extreme pornography offence at section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 to criminalise the possession of extreme pornographic images that depict rape and other non-consensual sexual penetration. Possession of such material is subject to a three-year maximum prison sentence.
Here is a link to section 37 of the 2015 Act:
That reform brought the extreme pornography offence in England and Wales more closely in line with the equivalent offence in Scotland.
With regards to your concern about indecent images of children I can assure you that the laws in this area are clear and rightly robust.
Under the Protection of Children Act 1978 (as amended), there is a strict prohibition on the taking, making, circulation and possession with a view to distribution of any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child under 18 and such offences carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 also makes the simple possession of indecent photographs of children an offence and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment. Alongside this section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 created a new criminal offence to make illegal the possession of non-photographic visual depictions of child sexual abuse, including ‘Hentai’ cartoons and computer-generated images of child abuse with a three-year maximum prison sentence.
The Ministry of Justice supports the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), www.iwf.org.uk, which was set up in 1996 by internet service providers (“ISPs”) to enable members of the public, via a hotline, to report child abuse content in a newsgroup or website that is hosted anywhere in the world. If the content is considered potentially illegal, the Foundation passes details to the UK police to start action against the originators and asks ISPs to deny access to the websites concerned. If the originators are abroad, the IWF passes the report to the relevant national hotline and, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre which opened in April 2006, who in turn liaise with the enforcement agencies of the countries concerned.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre was opened in April 2006 and is the UK’s national law enforcement agency committed to tackling the sexual abuse of children in both the online and offline environments - with the principal aim of identifying, locating and safeguarding children and young people from harm.
I hope this helps to reassure you that the protection of children from the scourge of sexual abuse and exploitation, in all its forms, remains a priority for this government.
Ministry of Justice
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