Basildon man jailed in cyber flashing first

A Basildon man has been jailed after being convicted of the first ‘cyber-flashing’ offence in the UK.

Nicholas Hawkes, 39, appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Tuesday March 19 where he was sentenced after pleading guilty to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress or humiliation.

Hawke’s conviction was the first in the UK for this offence, which was introduced in 2023 under the Online Safety Act. The investigation was managed by Essex Police’s MOSOVO team, who proactively manage sexual offenders and violent offenders in Essex.

The investigation into Hawkes was launched after Essex Police received a report that a woman and a teenage girl had been sent explicit images over Whatsapp.

Hawkes was arrested and quickly charged.

He pleaded guilty to all offences and was sentenced to a total 66 weeks in prison broken down as follows:

  • For two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress or humiliation he will serve 52 weeks imprisonment concurrent for each offence
  • For revoking a previous community order he was resentenced to four weeks consecutive
  • A previous suspended sentence was also activated for which he will serve an additional ten weeks consecutive.

He must 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.

“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.

“My main message here is to the perpetrators, people who think it’s acceptable to send these unsolicited photos without permission. It’s not and I ask those who think it is acceptable to reflect on their behaviour.”