England: Man jailed after first-ever cyber-flashing conviction

England: Man jailed after first-ever cyber-flashing conviction

A man who sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman has become the first person in England and Wales to be convicted and jailed for cyber-flashing.

Cyber-flashing became a specific criminal offence in England and Wales on 31 January 2024. Similar legislation took effect in Northern Ireland in November 2023.

The woman took screenshots of the image on WhatsApp and reported the man to Essex Police the same day, which was a Friday. He was charged over the weekend and brought to court on the Monday.

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, pleaded guilty in Basildon Crown Court to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation.

He was already a registered sex offender, having been convicted and given a community order for sexual activity with a child under 16 years old and exposure last year.

Hawkes was yesterday sentenced at Southend Crown Court to a total of 66 weeks’ imprisonment — 52 weeks for the cyber-flashing offences and an additional 14 weeks for breaching a previous court order — and a suspended sentence was activated.

He was also made subject of a restraining order for 10 years, and a sexual harm prevention order for 15 years.

Hannah von Dadelzsen, deputy chief crown prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: “Cyber-flashing is a serious crime which leaves a lasting impact on victims, but all too often it can be dismissed as thoughtless ‘banter’ or a harmless joke.

“Just as those who commit indecent exposure in the physical world can expect to face the consequences, so too should offenders who commit their crimes online; hiding behind a screen does not hide you from the law.

“Using the new legislation, our prosecutors worked to deliver swift justice — securing a guilty plea just four days after Nicholas Hawkes sent disgusting photos to his victims.

“The Crown Prosecution Service has delivered the first conviction for cyber-flashing, but it will not be the last and I urge anyone who has been a victim of this shocking crime — whether via instant messages, dating apps, or by any other means — to come forward, knowing you have the right to lifelong anonymity.”

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