What Are the Possible Penalties for Child Pornography?
Table of contents:

Section 163.1 of Canada’s Criminal Code considers it a criminal offence to access, possess, distribute, or make child pornography. According to the Code, child pornography comprises of representations of children under 18 engaged in sexual acts in videos, photographs, written material, audio recordings, and illustrations. It includes depictions of sexual organs or the anal region of anyone under 18 when used for a sexual purpose and any written material, visual representations, or audio recordings that advocate or counsel sexual activity with a person under 18.

Written materials and audio recordings that describe sexual activity with a person under 18 may also be considered child porn. According to the Code’s language, simple nudity does not automatically count as child pornography, as the materials must have a sexual purpose.

What Are the Types of Child Pornography Offences?

As detailed in the Criminal Code, there are four possible charges connected to child porn:

Accessing Child Pornography

Accessing child pornography is defined under Section 163.1 (4.2) as knowingly causing child porn to be viewed or transmitted. Legislators specifically developed this language to catch those not possessing child pornography but successfully seeking it online.

Possession of Child Pornography

This offence requires that you have the child porn materials in your possession or control. An offender doesn’t have to view the child pornography – only knowingly have the child porn in their possession.

Distribution of Child Porn

The Code defines the distribution of child porn as anyone who “transmits, makes available, distributes, sells, advertises, imports, exports or possesses for the purpose of transmission, making available, distribution, sale, advertising or exportation any child pornography.” This includes assisting anyone else in gaining access to child pornography, whether via sending them a link online or by offering them child porn content directly.

Making Child Pornography

The Code simply defines this offence as making, printing, publishing, or possessing for the purpose of publication any child pornography.

High Court Mandated Exceptions

In 2001, Canada’s Supreme Court delineated two exceptions to what constitutes child porn in its precedent-setting R v. Sharpe 2001 SCC 2 decision. To balance the societal interest in regulating child pornography against the Charter Right to freedom of expression, the high court defined two exceptions to the Criminal Code’s definition of child porn:

  1. “Self-created expressive material: i.e., any written material or visual representation created by the accused alone and held by the accused alone, exclusively for his or her own personal use; and
  2. Private recordings of lawful sexual activity: i.e., any visual recording, created by or depicting the accused, provided it does not depict unlawful sexual activity and is held by the accused exclusively for private use.”

However, in its decision, the high court also ruled that Canada’s child porn laws cover purely fictional characters—visual or written—even if no actual children were involved in its production.

What is Needed to Convict

To secure a conviction in child pornography cases, Crown prosecutors must prove that the alleged offender accessed, possessed, distributed, or made pornographic materials and that the materials are genuinely child pornography. As with any criminal offence, the Crown will present evidence, witness testimony, and a narrative of how the alleged offender committed the act. To secure a conviction, the Crown also must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” two primary factors needed to establish guilt in Canadian criminal cases:

The Guilty Act (Actus Reus)

“Actus reus” is the Latin term for “guilty act,” and in Canadian law, refers to proving that the offender was truly responsible for the criminal conduct. If there is any reasonable doubt that the offender was not responsible, the court cannot convict.

The Guilty Mind (Mens Rea)

“Mens rea” is Latin for “guilty mind,” a factor that means the Crown must prove that the offender intentionally and/or knowingly committed the offence. As with actus reus, any reasonable doubt about the offender’s intent can nullify a conviction.

Punishment for Child Pornography in Canada

Punishment for child porn charges in Canada ranges from a minimum of six months in jail to a maximum of 14 years imprisonment. Possession and access offences can be charged by summary conviction or indictment, while making or distributing child porn is solely an indictable offence.

Aggravating Factors Considered in Sentencing

In weighing sentences, the Criminal Code only defines “intent to make a profit” as an aggravating factor that judges should consider. Non-codified aggravating factors that can lead to a harsher penalty include:

  • Large amounts of child porn materials.
  • The children were significantly underage.
  • A history of child porn offences.
  • High-level participation in child porn production efforts.
  • The involved children were abused.

Other Repercussions of a Child Porn Conviction

In addition to court-ordered imprisonment, those convicted of child porn charges face other repercussions, including:

  • Mandatory enrollment and compliance with the National Sex Offender Registry.
  • Prohibitions on being in areas where children may be present.
  • Mandatory DNA inclusion in the National DNA databank.
  • Limits on working with youth or doing volunteer work that involves children.

Mandatory Minimum and Maximum Prison Terms

The mandatory minimum and maximum prison terms convicted child porn offenders can be sentenced to are highlighted in the below table:


Criminal Code Section

Minimum Sentence

Maximum Sentence

Making Child Pornography

S. 163.1 (2)

One Year

14 Years

Distribution of Child Pornography

S. 163.1 (3)

One Year

14 Years

Possession of Child Pornography

S. 163.1 (4)

One Year as Indictable Offence.

Six Months as Summary Conviction.

10 Years as Indictable Offence.

Two Years as Summary Conviction.

Accessing Child Pornography

S. 163.1 (4.1)

One Year as Indictable Offence.

Six Months as Summary Conviction.

10 Years as Indictable Offence.

Two Years as Summary Conviction.

Making Child Pornography

If you are convicted of making, printing, publishing, or possessing with the intent to publish any form of child pornography, you will face severe punishment.


Charged solely as an indictable offence, the mandatory minimum penalty is one-year imprisonment. The maximum sentence the courts can hand down for this offence is 14 years imprisonment.

Distributing Child Pornography

Considered equally as egregious as making child pornography, if you transmit, distribute, sell, import, export, possess with the intent of transmission, or otherwise make child porn available, you face harsh punishment if convicted.


Distribution is charged solely as an indictable offence and carries a mandatory minimum penalty of one-year imprisonment. The maximum sentence for this offence is 14 years imprisonment.

Possessing Child Pornography

Possession of child pornography can be physical, or if you have the porn under your direct or indirect control. It does not matter whether you have viewed the materials, as the mere act of possession is against the law.


When charged as an indictable offence, a conviction carries a mandatory minimum one-year prison term, and the judge can set penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Summary Conviction

As a summary conviction offence, child porn possession carries a mandatory minimum six-month jail sentence, with a maximum of two years.

Accessing Child Pornography

Similar to possession and with the same penalties, accessing child porn accounts for offenders seeking child porn on the Internet.


As an indictable offence, these charges carry a mandatory minimum one-year prison term, with a maximum of up to 10 years.

Summary Conviction

For summary convictions, accessing child porn carries a mandatory minimum six-month jail sentence, with a maximum of two years.

Child Pornography Defences

A skilled criminal defence lawyer will defend alleged child porn offenders similarly to how they would strategize other defences. This entails raising reasonable doubts about the Crown’s evidence and narrative describing the offence, along with challenging the actus reus and mens rea needed for conviction.

How to Beat a Child Pornography Charge

Defence lawyers have the edge over the Crown in criminal cases—including those involving child porn—because the lawyer does not have to prove their client innocent. Instead, the Crown must prove that the alleged offender is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and that they committed the offence with intent and/or knowledge.

Naturally, the strength of the Crown’s case is significantly dependent upon the evidence. A skilled defence lawyer can unravel the Crown’s case if the evidence is weak – along with raising reasonable doubt, a criminal defence child pornography lawyer has several distinct defence stratagems they may be able to use.

Legitimate Purpose & No Risk of Undue Harm

Section 163.1 (6) of the Criminal Code provides defendants with two legally viable defences to child porn charges. Defendants cannot be convicted if the act constituting the offence “has a legitimate purpose relating to the administration of justice or to science, medicine, education or art.” They also cannot be convicted if the act does not pose an undue risk of physical or psychological harm to persons under 18. To the most possible extent, criminal defence lawyers will assess whether or not their client’s case details fall under either of these parameters.

Lack of Knowledge Regarding Age

While the Code’s Section 163.1 (5) asserts that believing that a person depicted in visual representations of child porn was 18 or older is not a defence, defendants may get around this by proving that they took “all reasonable steps to ascertain the age.” This roundabout defence will fail if the defendant did not take reasonable steps to ensure that the visual representation did not depict the person as being under 18.

Lack of Control

This defence argues that the defendant lacked control over the child porn materials, and is most effective in cases where physical possession or access may not be direct. As the adage notes, “possession is nine-tenths the law,” but with child porn, the Crown must prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Innocent Possession

As a “public duty defence,” this seeks to justify innocent possession or access of child porn based on the defendant’s plan to turn it over to authorities or to destroy it immediately. Timelines regarding the defendant’s possession or access to the materials generally play a significant role in whether this defence is viable.

Private Use

This defence emerged from the Canadian Supreme Court’s R. v. Sharpe decision, allowing for a class of materials for private use. This class involves self-created expressive material and personal recordings of lawful sexual activities; when this defence is raised, the Crown must disprove the defendant’s claim beyond a reasonable doubt. This defence cannot be raised if the expressive material poses more than a nominal risk to children, and where there is limited potential for its harmful use by others.

Violation of Constitutional Rights

Skilled criminal defence lawyers carefully examine all elements of the Crown’s case to determine whether or not the police violated the defendant’s Charter Rights during the investigation, arrest, and processing. Any procedural mistakes or failure to honour a defendant’s Charter Rights can lead to evidence suppression or raise other challenges to the Crown’s case.

Secure the Services of a Skilled Criminal Defence Lawyer

Due to the complexities of the law and likely unfamiliarity with criminal court procedures, anyone facing child porn charges should not try to defend themselves. Instead, a competent criminal defence lawyer with working practice on child pornography cases offers you the best option for securing a favourable outcome.

If you’ve been charged with a child porn offence in the Greater Toronto Area, contact our team of knowledgeable child pornography lawyers to secure your best defence today.

If you need legal support, contact Vilkhov Law for a free consultation:
Toronto Criminal Lawyers
Etobicoke Criminal Lawyers
Scarborough Criminal Lawyers
Newmarket Criminal Lawyers
Brampton Criminal Lawyers
Mississauga Criminal Lawyers

By |2023-10-12T18:12:48+00:00October 13th, 2023|Child Pornography Charges|

5/5 - (2 votes)

Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Criminal Lawyers Association
Toronnto Lawyers Association
Law Society of Ontario
Excellent5.0 Based on 120 reviews fromBrandon ABrandon A ★★★★★ Igor was fantastic to work with. He was always very quick to respond and answered any questions I had at any time during the process. I'm so impressed for his amazing and efficient work - he was able to have any charges against me dropped. I highly recommend Igor to anybody that's currently facing legal trouble. He truly exceeded my expectations and I'm so grateful for everything. Thank you Igor!Anoop RAnoop R ★★★★★ One of the best law firms in town! Highly recommended.ARRARR ★★★★★ I was falsely accused and charged with a serious offence. All it took was just one phone call from the complainant. As an immigrant, it was a nightmare. Fortunately Igor was the first person whom I contacted and I knew he was the one and I retained him. Beware of the lawyers who try to scare you, make you feel insecure. From the first phone call, he never made me feel insecure. He was confident that he can get the work done. Igor and Daniel promptly attended all my court dates. It took a while to achieve the resolution and finally my case was unconditionally withdrawn. I can't thank him enough. As Igor is a busy person, I was getting updates regularly from Daniel. I would give six stars to Daniel. Igor should never let him go. I would definitely recommend this law firm. You might sometimes feel that Igor is late in responding, but he'll be putting all his efforts behind the scene. Just have faith in him. I wish Igor and Daniel all the best.Maria AgasMaria Agas ★★★★★ I was very impressed with his professionalism, swift responses and attention to detail. He was proactive and always communicated next steps. I’m so happy we came across Igor and his team. Igor is amazing and wonderful lawyer.Cindy LiCindy Li ★★★★★ I cannot express my gratitude enough for the exceptional legal representation provided by Igor. Facing wrongful accusations was a harrowing experience, but Igor's expertise and dedication swiftly turned the tide in my favor. He navigated the complexities of the case with professionalism, demonstrating remarkable intelligence and a deep understanding of the legal system. Thanks to his efforts, the charges were withdrawn in a timely manner, allowing me to move forward with my life. Igor is not just a good lawyer; he is an outstanding advocate for his clients. I wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of top-notch legal assistance.George ArellanoGeorge Arellano ★★★★★ Mr. Vilkhov got my charges withdrawn today after a very stressful time in my life. I hired him because of his reviews and I am not surprised that I got this result. I appreciate him and his team. Igor literally dedicates his entire life for his clients.Latch RamoutarLatch Ramoutar ★★★★★ I am sitting here at 10 Armoury street after my charges were just withdrawn. I cannot thank Igor enough for what he has done for me. This was supposed to be a trial where I was facing a ten year jail sentence. Somehow Igor got my charges dropped. This man is the lawyer you need, hands down. Also a very nice person.Emad MEmad M ★★★★★ Do not blink! Go with him.I know for stressful this process might be an how awful law system might be treating you, also how difficult it might be to trust someone with your “life”.Igor knows what he is doing and he saved my partner and I from false accusations of a jealous individual!He didn’t over charge, he didn’t hold back on any help a lawyer could possibly provide.This man is the best saviour one can ask for in these situations.Christa DuchenoChrista Ducheno ★★★★★ No kidding, if you need an attorney and You want the Best lawyer to defend you and your rights in the legal system I’d definitely recommend you call Igor Vilkhov.I am completely and gratefully satisfied with His professional guidance, knowledge of the complex legal system and most of all for saving my life. I give Igor and his Team my hands heart shout out Thank You for your dedication, I couldn’t have gotten through it without Y’all.Stephanie SchembriStephanie Schembri ★★★★★ Mr.Vilkhov thank you for keeping our family together we are forever gratefulAndreyAndrey ★★★★★ Highly recommend. Fast and reasonableRajveer SinghRajveer Singh ★★★★★ WaheguruAlyssa TolentinoAlyssa Tolentino ★★★★★ Igor is an incredibly professional, yet empathetic lawyer — I retained his services for charges laid against someone close to me, and would make that decision time and time again! He pays attention to every detail, and will be by your side to get the best outcome possible. You’re in good hands with him.Kathryn GilfoyKathryn Gilfoy ★★★★★ john la magnajohn la magna ★★★★★ I had a great experience with Vilkhov Law. Igor was professional, efficient, and made my very stressful first endeavour into needing legal council as much of a breeze as it could have been.He was also very patient with me as a first time offender with way too many questions.I highly recommended Igor, and his team at Vilkhov Law!Norbert WysockiNorbert Wysocki ★★★★★ Igor and his team provided excellent service in very delicate and emotional case. They were extremely supporting and knowledgeable. Thank you for everything you have done!Jason WorthJason Worth ★★★★★ Words cannot describe what Igor has done for me. Igor is the most skilled and amazing attorney I have ever met in my entire life. I had a long list of charges (some that carried some serious penitentiary time) and worked some serious magic with countless hours behind the scenes for me to make just 1 appearance and have ALL THE CHARGES WITHDRAWN and a peace bond put in place. The timeframe for it was amazing as well he took care of me and this situation in only 15 months! (we all know the justice system does not work that fast normally!) If you want a very highly skilled, passionate, available(Igor would take calls and messages even after normal hours to fill me in!), experienced and dedicated attorney that will work tirelssly with you and for you to get you the absolute best results then Igor is your man! 5 stars does not do this man justice he deserves 100 stars!N -N - ★★★★★ Great lawyer. Knowledgeable and helpful. 10/10 would recommend :)GLORIS SPENCEGLORIS SPENCE ★★★★★ Working with Igor and his team during a very unpleasant situation has been a blessing. Even though the legal process was a lengthy one, they were there to answer the questions and concerns we had.Thankfully, it's all over and settled and hopefully we'll not need his services again, but it is reassuring to know that if the situation should every arise where legal counsel is needed, Vilkhov Law Professional will be there in my corner.Thank you.Scott K.Scott K. ★★★★★ I would like to give Igor 5 stars for handling my serious case for the last 11 months of my life. In December 2022, I was wrongfully accused of 2 serious charges under my name however, Igor took care of it from the beginning and finally all of those wrongful charges are withdrawn and now I feel much better and at ease. I am very glad that Igor could help me throughout the hard process and bring out the best result possible! Also, what I want to pinpoint out for the most is that he picks up the call by himself and you get to contact directly with him whenever you have questions or want updates throughout the process. I know that it could be tiring for lawyers who have other clients at the moment but Igor always keep a close contact with his client and I was always able to talk to him directly when I needed for the last 11 months. At last, I wish all the best for Igor and hope that god blesses throughout his career and may he be able to offer his professionalism to help other people in need. Thank you Igor :)SAID ALISAID ALI ★★★★★ Igor is an exceptional lawyer! I am very thankful for his excellent professional legal advice and assistance, he was able to drop my S.A charges. Thank you Igor for everything you've done, I really appreciate your services.M AlyM Aly ★★★★★ I was charged with SA, which rarely ever get dropped and generally always go to trial. Igor Vilkhov was able to get my charges fully withdrawn with no consequences or harm to me.Every lawyer I spoke with quoted me astronomical fees and explained how they would have to jump through hoops and perform ‘legal gymnastics’ to help me. Igor was the only lawyer who gave me a fair and realistic fee structure. He walked me through what the process would look like and gave realistic expectations. It was clear from the start he knew what he was doing and that his experience was significant. Throughout the process he provided regular updates and was always reachable. If you’re charged, I highly recommend at least speaking with Igor before making a decision on an attorney.Melissa HinrichsenMelissa Hinrichsen ★★★★★ Igor was amazing to deal with. His response time was amazing compared to others. He knew what I needed and got the job done. I highly recommend to everyone.NicoleNicole ★★★★★ Very kind and helpfulDevere SDevere S ★★★★★ Mr.Vilkhov is a professional and very good lawyer, goes through everyrhing to make sure it gets dealt with properly, He replies fast if you have questions or anything as well, along with his staff Jessica she was a big help as well.js_loader


“Caring, honest, and highly knowledgeable.”

Contact Igor for a Free Consultation!

Please contact us online for a free consultation.
Go to Top