First person convicted of cyberflashing in England and Wales | Bolt Burdon Kemp First person convicted of cyberflashing in England and Wales | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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First person convicted of cyberflashing in England and Wales

A man who sent a woman and child unsolicited pictures of his private parts on WhatsApp has become the first person in England and Wales to be convicted of cyberflashing.

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, of Basildon, Essex, sent images of his erect penis to the woman and 15-year-old girl on February 9, 10 days after it became illegal under the Online Safety Act 2023.

The woman took screenshots of the images and reported them to Essex Police.

Criminal charges were brought, and Hawkes later admitted two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation. Hawkes was also charged with breach of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order and has been remanded in custody until he is sentenced in March 2024.

Cyberflashing is the sharing of indecent images to someone’s phone or electronic device, without their consent. Unwanted sexual images can be extremely distressing to the recipient, and it is rightly taken very seriously.

The popularity of social media and the increased use of smartphones in recent years have seen new laws aimed at protecting online users, as well as tackling the new opportunities for abuse/harm brought by the digital age.

Cyberflashing became a criminal act in England and Wales on January 31 2024 and will apply to offences after this date, but has been illegal in Scotland since 2010.

Victims are given automatic and lifetime anonymity from the moment they report the offence, under the Sexual Offences Act.

In addition to the perpetrator facing the consequences under the criminal law, a civil claim can also be considered which looks at how someone has been personally affected by their experiences. There may be the option of claiming financial compensation, which is aimed at helping survivors of abuse in rebuilding their lives.

Bolt Burdon Kemp is committed to supporting survivors who have been subjected to online and image-based abuse, having been the first law firm to have won a case for compensation in relation to psychological harm from sexting in the High Court.

If you believe you have experienced online or image-based sexual abuse, you can contact me directly for free, no obligation advice about your legal options and whether you may be entitled to compensation.

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