A forensic computing examination in relation to Indecent Images of Children can address many relevant issues such as the origin of the allegedly unlawful images, subsequent access to such images, intent as demonstrated by user search behaviour (or a contrary indication), automated browser processes or the design of websites (such as the use of unwanted “pop ups”). The fundamental question as to whether a photograph of a child fulfils the necessary criteria decreed by the legislators, however, lies wholly within the remit of the Court: nobody, be it a police officer, a paediatrician or a forensic computing specialist will be allowed to offer expert opinion as to the nature of the image.
Although the ultimate decision on classification rest with the jury, it is in order for an examiner to identify apparent discrepancies within the prosecution interpretation or description of such images in order that these may be addressed fully during proceedings. A “second look” may be considered particularly relevant as it would appear that a case can proceed from the initial examination to sentence based only on the assessment of the images by the police officer in the case.
A number of recent cases undertaken by KBC would serve to illustrate the usefulness of our input to the classification decision:
- The client was accused of the possession of a large number of indecent photographs at category “C”. These were found to be within “e-books” downloaded via Peer-to-Peer networks. Open source research indicated that these “art” books were freely available for purchase from major online book retailers. The Prosecution offered no evidence and the case was discontinued.
- The client sought and acquired a large collection of pictures of adults dressed in baby clothes. A number of such images were charged as indecent images of children, despite it being apparent, particularly from images of the same subjects during the same photo shoot, that the persons depicted were adults. In this case, a particularly detailed report was prepared, addressing a series of notably inaccurate descriptions of the image content. The case was discontinued.
- The client faced, on Indictment, 9 charges relating to the making and possession of indecent images of children. Our examination found that the great majority of these images had originated from mainstream adult gay pornography websites. Those websites were hosted in the United States, a jurisdiction that requires strict record keeping and imposes draconian sentences on persons distributing such material. Subsequently, the prosecution offered no evidence.
Whilst our main focus as forensic computer experts relates to the technical examination of computer equipment and the reporting of such examinations, our experience as practitioners also allows us to provide practical assistance and input in areas, such as classification and nature of images, in which there are, by definition, no experts.
Steve Guest, Digital Forensic Examiner, Keith Borer Consultants