Essex Police secures first conviction under new cyber-flashing law

A registered sex offender from Basildon has become the first person in England and Wales to be convicted of cyber-flashing, which became an offence on January 31 this year.

Feb 14, 2024
By Paul Jacques

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman on February 9.

The woman took screenshots of the image on WhatsApp and reported Hawkes to Essex Police the same day.

The force passed the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) out-of-hours service CPS Direct for a charging decision, and Hawkes was charged over the weekend.

At a remand hearing at Southend Magistrates’ Court on Monday (February 12), Hawkes pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation.

He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on March 11 at Basildon Crown Court.

Sefer Mani, from CPS East of England, said: “Cyber-flashing is a grotesque crime and the fact we were able to deliver swift justice for the two victims shows the new law is working.

“Everyone should feel safe wherever they are and not be subjected to receiving unwanted sexual images.

“I urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of cyber-flashing to report it to the police and know that they will be taken seriously and have their identities protected.”

Following the creation of a new offence for cyber-flashing as part of the Online Safety Act, the CPS published accompanying guidance for prosecutors, which gives them the tools to help put predators before the courts.

Victims of cyber-flashing and image-based abuse receive lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act from the point they report the offence.

Hawkes is a registered sex offender until November 2033 after he was convicted and given a community order for sexual activity with a child under 16 years old and exposure last year at Basildon Crown Court. He will also be sentenced for breaching the order when he is sentenced in March.

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