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‘Cyber-flasher’ first to be jailed under new English law

Nicholas Hawkes admitted to sending explicit photos to a 15-year-old girl and 60-year-old woman in February

Convicted pedophile Nicholas Hawkes has become the first person to be jailed for the crime of ‘cyber-flashing’ in England and Wales, when he was sentenced to more than a year in prison on Tuesday. This comes after a new set of laws entered into effect earlier this year in an attempt to crack down on anti-social content and behavior online.

Cyber-flashing is the act of sending unwanted sexual images to another person through online platforms such as social media or messenger apps. The act became a criminal offense in England and Wales under the Online Safety Act on January 31. In Scotland, it has been a crime for more than a decade.

Hawkes – who had already been convicted of sexual activity with a child under 16 and exposure – pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of his genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation.

In February, he borrowed his father’s phone on the pretense of calling his parole officer, and took and sent two photos of his genitalia, one to a 15-year-old girl, and another to a woman of 60. The latter took a screenshot and alerted the police.

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Judge Samantha Leigh sentenced Hawkes to 66 weeks in jail, considering the two charges combined with his breaching of previous court orders. She called him a “disturbed” man with a “warped view of himself and his sexuality.”

The Online Safety Act targets activities such as child sexual abuse, revenge pornography, hate speech, terrorism, and posts promoting self-harm. It places the responsibility for deleting the content on the companies that own the platforms where it is posted. Companies whose services are accessible by UK users and which fail to comply will face fines of up to £18 million ($22.9 million), or 10% of the company’s qualifying worldwide revenue, whichever is greater. Communications regulator OFCOM is tasked with enforcing the law.

March 20, 2024 at 12:18PM

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