Potential Police and Court Outcomes
For people under Police investigation in England and Wales for indecent images or other online sexual offences, there are a number of potential outcomes which are briefly explained below. We do not give legal advice, and we do encourage you to co-operate with the Police investigation. For legal advice you must consult with a solicitor. To avoid anxiety, we advise that you do not research potential outcomes before consulting with us, or with a solicitor.
No Further Action (NFA). If the Police do not find evidence, or they or the Crown Prosecution believe there is not enough evidence, or that prosecution is not in the public interest, then they should return your devices and take no action.
Conditional Caution. For some of the lowest-level offences, where the suspect has indicated responsibility for offending, the Police and Crown Prosecution Service may feel that the public interest is better served by not pursuing prosecution through the Courts, and issue a Conditional Caution instead. This would normally have a condition of attending education sessions or other work relevant to your behaviour. Although a Conditional Caution does not involve a prosecution or Court hearing, the person is added to the sex offender register for a period of two years.
Community Order. If someone pleads guilty in Court (or is found guilty after trial), they can be sentenced by a Magistrates or Crown Court to a Community Order which can last up to three years. This involves Probation supervision and requirements such as Unpaid Work, Rehabilitation Days (appointments) with a Probation Officer, the iHorizon group work programme, Curfews and, if relevant, other requirements such as mental health or alcohol treatment, or drug rehabilitation. A Community Order comes with five years on the sex offender register.
Suspended Sentence. The Court can pass a custodial (prison) sentence, but decide to suspend the sentence for a period of time, usually two years. If the person commits a similar offence during the period of suspension, the period of imprisonment can be activated (in addition to the punishment for the new offences). A suspended sentence usually comes with Probation supervision and requirements from the list explained under the Community Order section. A suspended sentence is likely to come with ten years on the sex offender register. For sentences of six months or under this would be seven years. A suspended sentence is legally a custodial sentence, even though there is no immediate imprisonment, and most people will not go to prison. A prison sentence can only be suspended if the term of imprisonment is under two years.
Immediate Custody (Prison). Some sentences are judged to be so serious that immediate imprisonment is seen as necessary or the only option. People convicted of sexual offences and going to prison will be asked if they want to reside on a vulnerable prisoner (VP) wing, and so be separated from the general prison population. Most sentences involve serving half of the sentence in prison and then a minimum of twelve months under Probation licence and supervision. Sentences above six months will result in 10 years sex offender registration and senetnecs of 32 months or more come with life-long sex offender registration. Life-long registration can be appealed after 15 years.
For any conviction through the Courts, the person should also expect to receive a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) which will come with conditions of behaviour that are relevant to the offences, such as not deleting internet history, not using private browsing and making devices available for inspection. Where there has been contact with children, the SHPO would normally include a condition to have no unsupervised contact with children or any contact with a named child. The duration of a SHPO is usually the same as sex offender registration.