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What is extreme pornography?

Extreme pornography is very different to indecent images of children.


Extreme pornography is also very different to prohibited images of children, for advice on prohibited images of children see my separate blog.


An extreme pornographic image is an image which meets four criteria. It is:


1. Pornographic ("of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal"), and


2. Grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character, and


3. Portrays in an explicit and realistic way any of the following:


  • An act which threatens a person's life, or

  • An act which results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person's anus, breasts or genitals, or

  • An act which involves sexual interference with a human corpse (necrophilia), or

  • A person performing an act of intercourse or oral sex with an animal (whether dead or alive) (bestiality), or

  • An act which involves the non-consensual penetration of a person's vagina, anus or mouth by another with the other person's penis or part of the other person’s body or anything else (rape or assault by penetration)


4. And, a reasonable person looking at the image would think that the persons or animals were real.


Possession of extreme pornography is an offence under section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.


There are three general defences:

  • They had a legitimate reason for having the image, or

  • That they had not seen it and did not know or suspect it to be illegal, or

  • That it had been sent to them unsolicited and they did not keep it for an unreasonable time.


Where the person charged participated in the act, there is also an option for the defence to prove that the person to person acts were consensual or staged.


There are many ways in which a person could end up in possession of such images, it is not uncommon for predominately young men to send such images to each other, or into group chats on WhatsApp or similar, to shock each other or as jokes. Unfortunately, these are not defences if the images are found on their electronic devices.


If you receive an extreme pornographic image without asking for it and without knowing or believing it would be extreme, it is important that the image is deleted as soon as possible. Once you know you have received the image there is no defence if you keep it for an unreasonable time.


There is not an offence of sharing or distributing extreme pornography, instead such actions are charged under the Obscene Publications Act.


The maximum penalty for possession of extreme pornographic images involving necrophilia or bestiality is two years in prison; for other images it is three years in prison.


Importantly, a person convicted of extreme pornography will only be put on the sex offenders register if the person is over 18 and the sentence imposed was for 2 years in prison or more.


Some firms will scare you with risks of prison sentences, I do not think that is fair, it also distracts you from focusing on dealing with your case in a proactive and productive fashion. Despite the maximum sentences I would advise that for straightforward possession of extreme images an immediate prison sentence is highly unlikely, the most likely sentence would be a community order or suspended sentence. For cases involving very few images and without aggravating features, a Police Caution or a fine may be achievable.


If you need specific advice on your case, please contact me or book an appointment.


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