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ARRANGEMENT OF SECTIONS
1. Indecent photographs of children.
3. Offences by corporations.
4. Entry, search and seizure.
6. Punishments. 7. Interpretation.
8. Similar provision for Northern Ireland.
9. Short title, extent and commencement.
Protection of Children Act
1978 CHAPTER 37
An Act to prevent the exploitation of children by making
indecent photographs of them; and to penalise the
distribution, showing and advertisement of such indecent
photographs. [20th July 1978]
BE IT ENACTED by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and
with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and
Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament
assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:-
[Indecent photographs of children.]
I.- (1) It is an offence for a person-
(a) to take, or permit to be taken, any indecent photograph
of a child (meaning in this Act a person under the age
of 16) ;or
(b) to distribute or show such indecent photographs ; or
(c) to have in his possession such indecent photographs,
with a view to their being distributed or shown by
himself or others ; or
(d) to publish or cause to be published any advertisement
likely to be understood as conveying that the advertiser
distributes or shows such indecent photographs, or
intends to do so.
(2) For purposes of this Act, a person is to be regarded as
distributing an indecent photograph if he parts with possession
of it to, or exposes or offers it for acquisition by, another person.
(3) Proceedings for an offence under this Act shall not be
instituted except by or with the consent of the Director of Public
(4) Where a person is charged with an offence under subsection
(1)(b) or (c), it shall be a defence for him to prove-
(a) that he had a legitimate reason for distributing or showing
the photographs or (as the case may be) having them
in his possession ; or
(b) that he had not himself seen the photographs and did not
know, nor had any cause to suspect, them to be
[1933 c. 12.]
(5) References in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933
(except in sections 15 and 99) to the offences mentioned in
Schedule 1 to that Act shall include an offence under subsection
(1) (a) above.
(6) Offences under this Act shall be included-
[1870 c. 52.]
(a) in the list of extradition crimes contained in Schedule 1 to the Extradition Act 1870 ; and
[1967 c. 68.]
(b) among the descriptions of offences set out in Schedule 1 to the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 ;
and sections 17 and 22 of the 1870 Act and sections 16 and 17
of the 1967 Act (application to Channel Islands, Isle of Man and
United Kingdom dependencies) extend to this subsection.
[52 c. 67.; 1956 c. 69]
(7) In paragraph 1 of the Schedule to the Visiting Forces Act
1952 (offences against the person in the case of which a member
of a visiting force is in certain circumstances not liable to be tried
by a United Kingdom court), after sub-paragraph (b)(viii)
(inserted by the Sexual Offences Act 1956) there shall be added-
" (ix) section 1(1)(a) of the Protection of Children Act
2.-(1) On a charge of an offence under section 1(1)(a) of this
Act, the wife or husband of the accused shall be competent to
give evidence at every stage of the proceedings, whether for the
defence or for the prosecution, and whether the accused is
charged solely or jointly with any other person :
(a) the wife or husband shall not be compellable either to
give evidence or, in giving evidence, to disclose any
communications made to her or him during the marriage
by the accused ; and
(b) the failure of a wife or husband of the accused to give
evidence shall not be made the subject of any comment
by the prosecution.
1898 c. 36. This subsection shall not affect section 1 of the Criminal
Evidence Act 1898 (competency of witnesses in criminal cases),
or any case where the wife or husband of the accused may at
Protection of Children Act 1978 c. 37 3
common law be called as a witness without the consent of the
(2) In section 27(4) of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 c. 37.
1963 (definition of " sexual offence " for purposes of provisions
of that section about calling children's evidence), after " the
Indecency with Children Act 1960 " there shall be inserted " or
section 1(1)(a) of the Protection of Children Act 1978 ".
(3) In proceedings under this Act a person is to be taken
as having been a child at any material time if it appears from
the evidence as a whole that he was then under the age of 16.
3.-(1) Where a body corporate is guilty of an offence under
this Act and it is proved that the offence occurred with the con-
sent or connivance of, or was attributable to any neglect on the
part of, any director, manager, secretary or other officer of the
body, or any person who was purporting to act in any such
capacity he, as well as the body corporate, shall be deemed to be
guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against
and punished accordingly.
(2) Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its
members, subsection (1) shall apply in relation to the acts and
defaults of a member in connection with his functions of management
as if he were a director of the body corporate.
Entry, search and seizure.
4.-(1) The following applies where a justice of the peace is
satisfied by information on oath, laid by or on behalf of the
Director of Public Prosecutions or by a constable, that there is
reasonable ground for suspecting that, in any premises in the
petty sessions area for which he acts, there are indecent photographs
of children and that such photographs-
(a) are or have been taken there ; or
(b) are or have been shown there, or are kept there with a
view to their being distributed or shown.
(2) The justice may issue a warrant under his hand authorising
any constable to enter (if need be by force) and search the premises
within fourteen days from the date of the warrant, and to seize
and remove any articles which he believes (with reasonable cause)
to be or include indecent photographs of children taken or shown
on the premises, or kept there with a view to their being distributed
(3) Articles seized under the authority of the warrant, and not
returned to the occupier of the premises, shall be brought before a
justice of the peace acting for the same petty sessions area as the
justice who issued the warrant.
(4) This section and section 5 below apply in relation to any
stall or vehicle, as they apply in relation to premises, with
the necessary modifications of references to premises acid the
substitution of references to use for references to occupation.
5.-(1) The justice before whom any articles are brought in
pursuance of section 4 above may issue a summons to the
occupier of the premises to appear on a day specified in the
summons before a magistrates' court for that petty sessions area
to show cause why they should not be forfeited.
(2) If the court is satisfied that the articles are in fact indecent
photographs of children, taken on the premises or shown there
or kept there with a view to their being distributed or shown, the
court shall order them to be forfeited ; but if the person summoned
does not appear, the court shall not make an order unless
service of the summons is proved.
(3) In addition to the persons summoned, any other person
being the owner of the articles brought before the court, or the
persons who made them, or any other person through whose
hands they had passed before being seized, shall be entitled to
appear before the court on the day specified in the summons to
show cause why they should not be forfeited.
(4) Where any of the articles are ordered to, be forfeited under
subsection (2), any person who appears, or was entitled to appear,
to show cause against the making of the order may appeal to the
(5) If as respects any articles brought before it the court does
not order forfeiture, the court may if it thinks fit order the person
on whose information the warrant for their seizure was issued to
pay such costs as the court thinks reasonable to any person who
has appeared before it to show cause why the photographs should
not be forfeited ; and costs ordered to be paid under this subsection
shall be recoverable as a civil debt.
(6) Where indecent photographs of children are seized under
section 4 above, and a person is convicted under section 1(1) of offences in respect of those photographs, the court shall order
them to be forfeited.
(7) An order made under subsection (2) or (6) above (including
an order made on appeal) shall not take effect until the expiration of the ordinary time within which an appeal may be instituted or,
where such an appeal is duly instituted, until the appeal is finally decided or abandoned ; and for this purpose-
(a) an application for a case to be stated or for leave to
appeal shall be treated as the institution of an appeal ;
(b) where a decision on appeal is subject to a further appeal,
the appeal is not finally decided until the expiration of
the ordinary time within which a further appeal may be
instituted or, where a further appeal is duly instituted,
until the further appeal is finally decided or abandoned.
6.-(1) Offences under this Act shall be punishable either on Punishments.
conviction on indictment or on summary conviction.
(2) A person convicted on indictment of any offence under
this Act shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not more
than three years, or to a fine or to both.
(3) A person convicted summarily of any offence under this
Act shall be liable-
(a) to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months ;
(b) to a fine not exceeding the prescribed sum for the purposes
of section 28 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 1977 c. 45.
(punishment on summary conviction of offences triable
either way: £1,000 or other sum substituted by order
under that Act), or to both.
7.-(1) The following subsections apply for the interpretation interpretation.
of this Act.
(2) References to an indecent photograph include an indecent
film, a copy of an indecent photograph or film, and an indecent
photograph comprised in a film.
(3) Photographs (including those comprised in a film) shall,
if they show children and are indecent, be treated for all purposes
of this Act as indecent photographs of children.
(4) References to a photograph include the negative as well
as the positive version.
(5) " Film " includes any form of video-recording.
[Similar provision for Northern Ireland. 1974 c. 28.]
8. An Order in Council under paragraph 10)(b) of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (legislation for Northern
Ireland in the interim period) which contains a statement that it
operates only so as to make for Northern Ireland provision cor-
responding to this Act --
(a) shall not be subject to paragraph 1(4) and (5) of that
Schedule (affirmative resolution of both Houses of
Parliament) ; but
(b) shall be subject to annulment by a resolution of either
[Short title, extent and commencement]
9.-(1) This Act may be cited as the Protection of Children
(2) This Act except section 1(6) shall not extend to Scotland
and except for that subsection, and subject also to section 8 shall
not extend to Northern Ireland.
(3) Section 8 of this Act shall come into force forthwith, but
otherwise this Act shall come into force at the expiration of one
month beginning with the date it is passed.
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