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First cyberflasher convicted in England is sentenced to 66 weeks in jail

The act was banned in England and Wales in January.

Unsplash / freestocks

A man has been jailed for 66 weeks in England after pleading guilty to cyberflashing. Nicholas Hawkes is the first person to be convicted of the crime in the country under the Online Safety Act. Cyberflashing (sending unsolicited photos of genitalia) was outlawed in England and Wales under the law on January 31.

“Cyberflashing 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," prosecutor Hannah von Dadelzsen said in a statement. “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."

Registered sex offender Hawkes, of Basildon, Essex, admitted to sending a photo of his genitals to a 15-year-old girl and a woman in early February. The woman took screenshots of the image and reported it to police. Cyberflashing victims receive lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act after reporting such crimes.

Hawkes pleaded guilty on February 12 to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress or humiliation. He was held in custody until his sentencing on Tuesday. Hawkes was jailed for one year for the cyberflashing counts, and 14 weeks for breaching a previous order. He was convicted last year of exposure and sexual activity with a child under 16 and was sentenced to a community order.

Some other jurisdictions have similar laws against cyberflashing. Scotland banned it in 2010 and Northern Ireland followed suit last year. Singapore made it a crime in 2019, while the practice is illegal in some circumstances in Australia. Some states have moved to tackle cyberflashing too, including California, Virginia and Texas.