Nicholas Hawkes, 39, becomes first in England to be jailed for cyber flashing

A man has been sentenced for cyber flashing in England for the first time.

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, from Basildon in Essex, was jailed for 66 weeks at Southend Crown Court today after he sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman on 9 February.

The older victim took screenshots of the offending image on WhatsApp and reported Hawkes to the police the same day.

Cyber flashing became a criminal offence in England with the passage of the Online Safety Act on 31 January. It has been a crime in Scotland since 2010.

The offence covers the sending of an unsolicited sexual image to people via social media, dating apps, text message or data-sharing services such as Bluetooth and AirDrop.

Victims of cyber flashing get lifelong anonymity from the time they report the offence, as it also falls under the Sexual Offences Act.

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Hawkes previously admitted two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation, at Southend Magistrates' Court.

He was already a registered sex offender and will be until November 2033, having been convicted last year of sexual activity with a child under 16 and exposure, for which he also received a community order.

On Tuesday he pleaded guilty to breaching the order and breaching a suspended sentence for another sexual offence.

His sentencing included these breaches.

Essex Police said Hawkes must also comply with a 10-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.

"People who think it's acceptable to send these unsolicited photos... it's not, and I ask those who think it is acceptable to reflect on their behaviour."

Hannah von Dadelszen, deputy chief crown prosecutor for 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 Crown Prosecution Service 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."