PROTECT YOURSELF AND SECURE EVIDENCE
We were recently sent an indecent image of a child being sexually abused via a message on Facebook.
The image was accompanied by a message basically saying, - this is vile, help catch him.
On the face of it, his intention to find the abuser was with good intent, but by sharing the image he was carrying out an illegal act - the distribution of images of sexual abuse.
In line with our child protection policy we contacted the police to raise our concerns.
Initially we had problems getting through to the police by phone and were placed in a queue. We then chose to complete an online form and received a phone call back within 5 minutes. You may want to bear this in mind if you are needing an urgent reply about something you consider serious.
We received a visit from two CID officers who took some information and explained that someone else may need to come out as only certain officers are permitted to download and store this type of image for evidence.
The image was subsequently removed by the person who had sent it
We then had another visit from a specialist officer who examined the computer and plugged in a device, an IMF I believe, in an attempt to recall the image.
The device is like an USB storage. All of the images from the computer were downloaded on this device which was taken away to be further examined.
During the conversations with the police officer, certain recommendations were made. These recommendations were primarily about protecting ourselves, and securing evidence and we have chosen to share these.
* If you are sent an indecent image NEVER download it to any device. You may feel that you are acting in good faith to pass the photo on, but by downloading it you are classed as ‘making an obscene image’ and may be liable to prosecution. Do not edit the photo in any way.
* Keep a note of the details, who sent it, where they sent it from as this will make it easier for police officers to find.
* Try not to challenge the person who had sent the image. This may casue them to remove the photo. Whist these images are awful the police will use them as evidence to attempt to find the perpetrator and protect the child from further abuse.
* If you are ever in any doubt about a photo, even if it is later proven to be innocent, always seek advice from the police. The police do not mind if you are unsure about an image, they would rather you ask than leave it. (take note of what I mentioned above about the advantage of using the police online form).