What are sexual images of children?

What the law says about sexual abuse images

It is important that you are aware of the law surrounding sexual images of children, so you understand when behaviour may be inappropriate.

The term ‘indecent images of children’ means a sexual image of a child (anyone under the age of 18). It includes:

  • nude or partially clothed children
  • children sexually posing
  • self-generated images by children (‘selfies’)
  • images depicting children engaging in both penetrative and non-penetrative sexual activity

This definition applies to still images, videos and pseudo-photographs (an image which appears to be a photograph and that may have been created by a computer).

‘Indecent images of children’ is the legal term for these types of images. On this website we refer to them as ‘sexual images of children’. In addition, the term ‘sexual image’ is a collective term which comprises of sexual images, videos and pseudo-photographs of children.

Sexual offences relating to sexual images of children


Having, in your possession, a sexual image of anyone under the age of 18, whether it be a hard copy or an electronic copy.


The sending of a sexual image of a child, to another person. It includes distribution through chat rooms, email, phone applications, text messaging, USB sticks and file sharing websites (peer-to-peer).

Sometimes file sharing websites will allow others to access your files without your direct knowledge. You need to check your settings to ensure this isn’t the case. The authorities will assume that you have consented to any form of distribution and will not accept any lack of understanding.

If the authorities find evidence of intent to distribute, even if you haven’t done so, it is possible to be charged for distribution.


Also known as ‘production’: making an electronic copy of a sexual image of a child. This includes copies of images that are purposefully saved by a user on to a device and the automatic copy saved to a device when an image is clicked on.  In addition, it includes images automatically downloaded from file sharing websites.


Taking sexual images of a child.

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