WhatsApp User Becomes First Convicted Cyber-Flasher Under New UK Law
By Mikelle Leow, 13 Feb 2024
Photo 144436301 © Anton Garin | Dreamstime.com
Unsolicited d**k pics, be gone. In a landmark case for digital decency, a 39-year-old Essex man has become the first individual in England or Wales to be convicted under the new cyber-flashing law.
This offense, which involves the unwanted transmission of genital images, was officially recognized as a criminal act on January 31 of this year, following the enactment of the Online Safety Act.
Nicholas Hawkes was found guilty of sending uninvited pictures of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the woman captured screenshots of the offensive image on WhatsApp and promptly reported Hawkes to the Essex Police on February 9.
Hawkes later confessed to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals with the intent to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation. His conviction was secured at Southend Magistrates’ Court, where he was remanded in custody, awaiting sentencing at Basildon Crown Court scheduled for March 11.
Sefer Mani, representing the CPS East of England, emphasized the gravity of cyber-flashing and praised the prompt attention given under the new law.
“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,” Mani stated. “Everyone should feel safe wherever they are and not be subjected to receiving unwanted sexual images.” He encouraged anyone who has been a victim of cyber-flashing to come forward, assuring them of serious consideration and protection of their identities.
Under the Sexual Offences Act, victims of cyber-flashing and image-based abuse are granted lifelong anonymity from the moment they report the offense.
It’s a clear message that the law is catching up with technology, ensuring that victims have recourse for protection.
This case also revisits Hawkes’ troubled past, as he is already a registered sex offender until November 2033, following previous charges for sexual activity with a child under 16 and exposure. His upcoming sentencing in March will also address his breach of the community order imposed during his prior conviction.
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