English court jails first offender for 'cyber-flashing'

LONDON: A court in eastern England on Tuesday became the first in the country to jail someone for a new cyber-flashing offence, sentencing a convicted sex offender to 66 weeks in prison.

A judge at Southend Crown Court handed Nicholas Hawkes, 39, the jail term after he previously admitted to the newly designated offence at an earlier appearance.

Cyber-flashing, which can involve offenders sending people an unsolicited sexual image on social media, dating apps or by other electronic communication, became a crime in England and Wales on January 31.

It was part of the government's Online Safety Act.

Hawkes, from Basildon, east of London, pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress or humiliation.

He had admitted the latest offences of sending unsolicited images to a 15-year-old girl and a woman on February 9.

The woman took screenshots of the photograph on WhatsApp and reported him to police the same day.

Hawkes was already on the sex offenders register after a conviction last year of sexual activity with a child under 16 years old and exposure, for which he also received a community order.

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

Victims of the new cyber-flashing offence and other image-based abuses have lifelong anonymity from the moment they report it under the Sexual Offences Act.--AFP

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