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IT professionals urged to swot up on new Sexual Offences rules

Conditional defence

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Nine in ten IT professionals are unaware of recent law changes regarding the storing of child abuse images that might later be used in an investigation by police.

In May, the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2003 came into force. It introduces a "conditional defence" which protects IT professionals who - in their day-to-day management of electronic networks and services - may need to download and then store potentially illegal child abuse images as evidence for police or the Internet Watch Foundataion (IWF).

While the viewing of child abuse images is illegal, the new "conditional defence" is meant to reassure staff in ISPs and systems management that they can store illegal images as long as they are to be used as part of a police investigation.

Snag is, research by the IWF has found that 87 per cent of IT professionals are unaware of these changes in the law, even though two thirds of those companies surveyed regulaly monitor the activities of their employees to ensure that such illegal content is not accessed via their systems.

Said IWF chief exec Peter Robbins: "It is vital that any organisation providing internet access to employees understands how to deal with these types of images. Their policies must be in line with current UK legislation and internal procedures should be clearly and regularly explained to staff, including consequences for transgression."

A Memorandum of Understanding between the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which outlines the specific circumstances under which IT professionals could claim a defence under the new legislation is due to be published shortly.

For more information email wipeitout@iwf.org.uk. ®

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