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Prison sentence in first cyberflashing case

|News, Sexual offences

UPDATE: On 19 March, Nicholas Hawkes, was sentenced at Southend Crown Court to a total of 66 weeks in prison. He received 52 weeks for the cyberflashing offences and an additional 14 weeks for breaching a previous court order and a suspended sentence was activated. He was also made subject of a restraining order for 10 years, and a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 15 years.

Responding to his sentence Hannah von Dadelzsen, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: “Cyberflashing 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 cyberflashing, 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.”

A registered sex offender from Basildon has become the first person in England and Wales to be convicted of cyber-flashing, which became an offence on 31 January 2024.

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to a 15-year-old girl and a woman on 9 February. The woman took screenshots of the image on WhatsApp and reported Hawkes to Essex Police the same day.

The case was passed to the CPS out-of-hours service CPS Direct for a charging decision, and was charged over the weekend. 

At a remand hearing at Southend Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 12 February Hawkes pleaded guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation.

He was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at a date to be determined at Basildon Crown Court.

Following the creation of a new offence for cyber-flashing as part of the Online Safety Act, the CPS published accompanying guidance for prosecutors which gives them the tools to help put predators before the courts.

Victims of cyber-flashing and image-based abuse receive lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act from the point they report the offence.

Hawkes is a registered sex offender until November 2033 after he was convicted and given a community order for sexual activity with a child under 16-years-old and exposure last year at Basildon Crown Court.

Notes to editors

  • Nicholas Hawkes (DOB: 23/12/1984) was prosecuted by lawyers in CPS East of England. He pleaded guilty to two counts of cyber-flashing contrary to Section 66A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which was added by the Online Safety Act 2023 to create the new offence.
  • This case was charged by CPS Direct, the CPS' out of hours charging unit. 
  • The CPS published guidance for prosecutors on cyber-flashing which can be found here: Illegal sexual behaviour online including sharing and threatening to share intimate images and cyberflashing targeted in new CPS guidance 

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