Last month, an Essex man, Nicholas Hawkes, became the first person in England and Wales to be convicted of cyberflashing. The conviction came about after Hawkes was arrested for sending unsolicited photos of his exposed penis to a woman and a 15-year-old girl.

Cyberflashing became an offence in January as part of the Online Safety Act 2023. But what exactly is cyberflashing, and why are we seeing the term more nowadays? This article will tell you everything you need to know about cyberflashing and how to proceed if you’re being accused of this crime.

Cyberflashing refers to the act of a person sending an unwanted sexual image from their digital device to someone else’s without their permission; this can occur via Bluetooth, AirDrop, WiFi or any other method that allows for file sharing without requiring online interaction with the recipient. It is common for this behaviour to happen in public settings or on public transportation, where it is committed as a crime of opportunity.

Those who partake in cyberflashing also use other methods to carry out their criminal acts, sharing images via Facebook Chats and Instagram DMs from anonymous accounts. In fact, there was a notable rise in cyberflashing cases at the height of the coronavirus crisis. Respondents of a survey carried out by the UK’s leading charity against online abuse, Glitch, reported a 27% increase in online abuse during the pandemic. Later, in 2022, statistics show that a third of women stated they’d been victims of cyberflashing.

With those who have been a victim of cyberflashing being urged to report their experience to the police, you might wonder what the law is surrounding the crime: cyberflashing was introduced under a new Section 66A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and the act has been illegal in England and Wales since March 2022. In Scotland, it has been illegal since 2010.

To be convicted of cyberflashing, the legal criteria require that the victim experiences humiliation, distress or alarm when receiving the image. Alternatively, the court must be able to prove that the perpetrator sent the image with the intention of receiving sexual pleasure or acted with indifference to the possibility that the recipient would be humiliated, distressed or alarmed.

Under the law, a person found guilty of cyberflashing faces the possibility of a prison sentence of up to two years. Cyberflashing is classed as an ‘either way’ offence and can be judged in either the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court.

Being convicted of cyberflashing doesn’t automatically place someone on the Sex Offenders Register. If the person found guilty is younger than 18 and sentenced to 12 months or more, they will be subject to notification requirements; this means they must notify the police of personal information such as their name, address, bank and credit card details. Further, they must update the police whenever this information changes. If the person harmed by the cyberflashing is under 18, the one who committed the act must report themselves, regardless of age. For others, reporting requirements kick in if they are sentenced to prison, held in a hospital under certain conditions, or given a community sentence of at least 12 months.

If you’ve been accused of cyberflashing and require a Criminal Defence Solicitor, it is crucial that you seek the best legal services available to you during this stressful time. Draycott Browne’s Sexual Offence Lawyers in Manchester are highly regarded nationally and continually deliver positive results.

Contact our Sexual Offence Solicitors in Manchester now. If you’d prefer us to contact you, fill in our online enquiry form, and a member of our expert team will be in touch soon.

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