There are many offences related to child pornography under both state and commonwealth law. One of the most common charges is the possession of child abuse material.
Many people search for pornographic images on the internet. Being in possession of such material is not an offence unless the image involves prohibited content. A person may accidentally stumble onto such material or not understand that it is prohibited. If the data remains stored on their computer, this could result in criminal charges.
Possession of child abuse material
Since 2010, “child pornography” has been referred to as “child abuse material” in legal terms. Under section 91H of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) the production, dissemination, or possession of child abuse material is an offence.
What is child abuse material?
Child abuse material depicts children in ways that a reasonable person would consider offensive. This includes when the child appears to be:
- A victim of torture, cruelty or physical abuse.
- Engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity.
- In the presence of another person who is engaged or apparently engaged in a sexual pose or sexual activity.
- Depicted with their private parts exposed.
A child is considered someone less than 16 years of age.
In determining whether the material is offensive, the court will consider:
- Generally accepted standards of morality, decency, and propriety,
- The literary, artistic, educational, or journalistic merit of the material (if any) and,
- The general character of the material (including whether it is of a medical, legal, or scientific character).
Potential penalties for child pornography offences
The maximum penalty for producing, disseminating or possessing child abuse material is 10 years imprisonment. If the matter is heard in the Local Court the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.
Other penalties such as a Community Correction Order or Intensive Correction Order could be imposed, however this offence is taken very seriously, and in both courts, most offenders receive a prison sentence.
A person found guilty under section 91H may be placed on the NSW Child Protection Register and subject to detailed reporting requirements. Under the Child Protection (Offenders Prohibition Orders) Act 2004, a Local Court can then make orders restricting the conduct of people placed on the register, prohibiting them from travelling, being in certain locations, or from contacting specific people.