Man, 39, becomes first person in England to be jailed for cyberflashing after sending picture of his genitals to 15-year-old schoolgirl

A paedophile who sent a picture of his genitals to a 15-year-old girl has become the first person in England and Wales to be jailed for a cyber-flashing offence.

Nicholas Hawkes was today jailed for over a year after he sent unsolicited photos of his erect penis to the girl and another woman on February 9.

The 39-year-old, from Basildon, Essex, was already a convicted sex offender when he sent the images, the CPS said.

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

Hawkes admitted during an earlier hearing at Southend Magistrates’ Court to two counts of sending a photograph or film of genitals to cause alarm, distress, or humiliation.

Cyber-flashing is where an offender sends unsolicited sexual pictures to someone via social media, dating apps, Bluetooth or Airdrop.

It became an offence on January 31 this year as part of the Online Safety Act, having been illegal in Scotland since 2010.

Hawkes was jailed for 66 weeks at Southend Crown Court today after being convicted under the act.

He must also comply with a 10-year restraining order and will be subject to a 15-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

Victims of the offence and other image-based abuses receive lifelong anonymity under the Sexual Offences Act from the point they report it.

Hawkes was already on the sex offenders register until November 2033 after last year being convicted of sexual activity with a child under 16 years old and exposure, for which he also received a community order.

On May 12 Hawkes went to Long Riding Surgery in Basildon and took his shirt off as he entered the building before stripping off completely.

He then rubbed hand sanitizer on his genitals and walked around the foyer for five minutes. He left, crossed the road and approached a resident before police were called.

Then on July 23, he approached a group of young people in Mopsies Park, Basildon while only wearing his trainers and engaged in a ‘sexual conversation’ with the victims and ‘kissed one girl and hugged another.’

Hawkes was spared jail for those incidents, blaming the incidents on his PTSD and heavy cocaine use, denying a sexual attraction to children.

Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy, Saqib Bhatti said: ‘Cyber-flashing was amongst a host of vile offences we criminalised in January as part of our ground-breaking Online Safety Act to make the UK the safest place to be online.

‘Today is a significant milestone and sends a clear message to abusers; the internet will no longer serve as a sanctuary for your sinister crimes.’

Essex Police 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.

‘Hawkes has proven himself to be a dangerous individual and our Crime and Public Protection Team have put hours of work into ensuring he is taken off the streets.

‘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.

Sefer Mani, from CPS East of England, said after his hearing in February: ‘Cyber-flashing is a grotesque crime and the fact we were able to deliver swift justice for the two victims shows the new law is working.

‘Everyone should feel safe wherever they are and not be subjected to receiving unwanted sexual images.

‘I urge anyone who feels they have been a victim of cyber-flashing to report it to the police and know that they will be taken seriously and have their identities protected.’

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