Man jailed in first UK cyber-flashing offence

A man has jailed for 66 weeks after being convicted of the first ‘cyber-flashing’ offence in the UK.

Mar 20, 2024
By Paul Jacques
Nicholas Hawkes

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, from Basildon, appeared at Southend Crown Court on Tuesday (March 19) where he was sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress or humiliation.

Hawke’s conviction was the first in the UK for this offence, which was introduced in 2023 under the Online Safety Act. The investigation was managed by Essex Police’s MOSOVO team, which proactively manage sexual offenders and violent offenders in Essex.

The investigation into Hawkes was launched on February 9 after Essex Police received a report that a woman and a teenage girl had been sent explicit images over WhatsApp.

Hawkes was arrested and quickly charged with two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm or distress.

He pleaded to all offences. As part of the sentence, he was convicted of breaching a suspended sentence order.

He must comply with a ten-year restraining order and will be subject to a 15-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Detective Chief Inspector James Gray said: “This result proves that we are able to thoroughly investigate all sexual offences, including those which have only recently been criminalised.

“Hawkes has proven himself to be a dangerous individual and our Crime and Public Protection Team have put hours of work into ensuring he is taken off the streets.

“Perpetrators may think that by offending online, they are less likely to be caught, however that is not the case. ‘Cyber-flashing’ has a detrimental impact on victims, and we will continue to investigate all reports of this offence.

“My main message here is to the perpetrators, people who think it’s acceptable to send these unsolicited photos without permission. It’s not and I ask those who think it is acceptable to reflect on their behaviour.”

Hannah von Dadelzsen, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (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 CPS 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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