Sexual Offences Act 2003 Section 46 : Images of Child Abuse

AU Advice to Staff who Use Computers in the Course of their Work

The above Act makes it illegal to view or store images of child abuse, even if encountered accidentally. It is very unusual for this to occur during normal Internet use, but it can happen. This guidance is intended to explain your responsibilities in this area when using Aberystwyth University computer systems.

There are three rules to bear in mind in making it even less likely that this could happen:-

  1. Never click on a web link that looks at all suspicious
  2. Never type in an http address that looks in any way as though it could be associated with such material
  3. Never open email attachments from addresses your do not recognise (this is already advised practice in order to guard against computer viruses)

If you do come across images you suspect may be illegal you should contact Information Services with details of how you encountered the material in one of the following ways:

  • email
  • Telephone internal extension 2924 (01970 622924)
  • Pay a personal visit to Data Preparation (E33a) or the Secretary (C59) in the Llandinam Building saying you wish to discuss possible computer misuse with a member of staff

You should do this immediately, firstly to allow investigations to be started urgently, and secondly to demonstrate that there was no intention on your part to hold such information for any length of time before reporting it.

In such a case, do not

  • Access any further images from the site you have come across
  • Store any image that has been displayed on your monitor
  • Attach any images as part of the email reporting the material

It is important to realise that accessing or storing images of child abuse constitutes an offence and that, unless specific authorisation has been given by the University a claim that you were investigating possible illegal material is not a defence. You should immediately pass the information you have to one of the contacts listed above, refrain from any further activity in the matter, and delete any images that may have been stored whether intentionally or as intermediate data by the system. Once the matter is reported to Information Services the following steps will be taken:

The specific information you have given will be followed up by one of a small number of nominated technical computer staff;

Escalation procedures will be invoked so that a senior member of University staff is involved in viewing the material;

Staff will not continue to look for further images;

If it is confirmed by the senior member of the University that possibly illegal images have been identified then the matter will be reported to the police where it appears that individuals within the UK are involved, else the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will be informed (their remit is to handle such matters in collaboration with the police, CPS and service providers).

If you have more general concerns about this area of computer use please contact us.

The Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service have published a Memorandum of Understanding on the Act which can be viewed at