The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 was updated in 1994 by amending the definition of 'photograph' to make it clearer regarding today's technology. The update stated that the term 'photograph' included data stored on a computer disc or by other electronic means which is capable of conversion into a photograph. The law was also amended by the Act so that the concept of 'pseudo-photograph' was introduced, meaning an image whether generated by computer graphics or otherwise, which appears to be a photograph.

This was a much required update and secures society more due to the every day improvement of present technology. The law must always review how technology is improving, and how paedophiles are able to store their images in which ever form. Cyberspace has developed onto mobile phones now, therefore people can access the internet directly from their phone and also store photographic images; this is soon information the law will have to review.

The maximum penalty of the Act has increased in recent years as the previous sentences were considered low by international standards and the Government decided to act upon this. Simple possession now stands at 5 years imprisonment and distribution up to 10. The Criminal Justice Act is furthermore a key legislation that strikes down firmly upon those caught in possession. If caught in possession of a photograph or pseudo-photograph and it is believe there was no further intention to distribute to others, this alone receive strict sentencing.

It has been stated that this 'is also a criminal offence under section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988… The maximum penalty for this offence has also been increased (as from 11 January 2001) and now stands at five years' imprisonment or a fine or both, if tried on indictment in the Crown Court. ' [Bainbridge, 2004] This sentence is purely based on the fact that the image was sent without any prior request or has not been obtained for an unreasonable length of time. In 1997 rock star Gary Glitter had his computer taken by authorities for inspection regarding child pornography.

In 1999 his trial began and Glitter pleaded guilty to 54 charges of downloading child porn, he was sentenced to four months imprisonment. This was a major shock to the world, even famous rock stars were being found guilty of this crime, showing how diverse the participants of child pornography were. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is one of the most recently updated acts that is believe to act as a strong framework to protect the public from sexual offences. It carries tougher sentences, greater protection for all different age categories for children and closely monitors sexual offenders.

Under the new law, the legal age for all young people wanting to consent to have sex is 16, under all circumstances. This makes it easier to prosecute anyone who tries to force or manipulate people into having sex they don't want. The law also states sexual activity with a person under the age of 13 is by no means ever allowed. 'Assault by penetration has a maximum penalty of life in prison; sexual assault and causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity both has maximum penalties of 14 years in prison. ' [Home Office, 2004]

The Sexual Offences Act now also makes it illegal to possess, permit to take, distribute, or show any type of photograph or pseudo-photograph of any person under the age of 18. This again helps increase the chance of catching paedophiles, makes life more difficult for them and secures better boundaries for Police forces to work under. The Cybercrime Convention is the first international treaty on crime committed through the internet, such as child pornography. Its main objective is to pursue a common criminal policy aimed at the protection of society against cyber crime.

Regarding child pornography, it includes definition of 'photograph' and also states the offence to distribute at different levels. I believe the Cybercrime Convention is a massive step to relieving the pressure from the domestic law and create a cyber law. This enables cyber offences to be dealt strictly by a cyber controlled body, therefore prosecutions and arrests can be dealt with more quickly and efficiently. It also sets clearer guidelines for the whole of Europe to go by regarding cyber crime. Sentencing for child pornography has become strongly debatable under the current laws.

Mentioned earlier, the term 'indecent' in the Protection of Children Act 1978 is left up to the courts to determine, leaving a certain amount of unsure of equality across every case. David Bainbridge writes: 'sentencing guidelines based on the increased penalties were laid down by the Court of Appeal n R v Oliver [2003]. The court of appeal adopted a scale suggested by the Sentencing Advisory Panel, with some modifications as follows: It is understandable that the law has to make guidelines to go by regarding the level of discrimination towards a child.

However I still don't feel comfortable that judge or jury are in full control of defining the difference between levels of paedophilia. There is no doubt that, to most, paedophilia of any case is a severe one, therefore all paedophiles should be treat equally and sentenced maximum punishment. This, unfortunately, may never be the case and levels do have to be distinguished. However I do believe levels will be distinguished by a person based purely on their beliefs, upbringings, and surroundings leaving equality of each paedophile case being left in doubt.

Sexual grooming of children by e-mail or in chat rooms is another aspect of paedophilia in cyberspace that is becoming increasingly worrying. Paedophiles using this method are able to lie about their name, age, address, even send a false image, all to help lure children into liking them. Julian Levene, a sentenced paedophile who drew up a flow chart on how to trap and abuse children stated: 'chat it up-make love to their minds! Do get them to love you and then withdraw your love before you move in; they will know the price of getting that love back.

' Bob Long, who co-wrote 'The Hunt for Britain's Paedophiles' states: 'one of the interesting things about them is that they are very nice men – that is how they are able to operate. ' Therefore e-mail and chat sites are easy ways for such men to access children directly. As far as the chatroom problem is concerned, it is very difficult to sustain prosecution for on-line activities but, once contact is made and achieved in the real world, then a range of charges may be appropriate such as conspiracy, abduction, indecent assault or unlawful sexual intercourse.