Cyberflashing to become a criminal offence

Legally reviewed by: Kevin Waddingham In: Criminal Defence

The Government has announced that ‘Cyberflashing’ will become a new criminal offence in England and Wales, with perpetrators receiving a sentence of up to two years in prison.

Cyberflashing refers to someone sending unsolicited sexual images to victims through platforms such as social media, dating apps or by using data sharing services such as Bluetooth or Airdrop.

In some situations, a preview of the image can appear on the person’s device even if they reject the transfer request.

Almost half of young women have been targeted previously and research conducted in 2020 by Professor Jessica Ringrose found that 76 per cent of girls aged 12-18 had been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men.

The proposed change will mean that anyone who sends a photo or film of a person’s genitals, for their own sexual gratification or to cause the victim humiliation, alarm or distress may face up to two years in prison.

Ministers have confirmed that laws banning this behaviour will be included in the Government’s landmark Online Safety Bill alongside wide-ranging reforms to keep people safe on the internet.

The new legislation follows similar actions to criminalise upskirting and breastfeeding voyeurism as part of the Government’s plan to protect people, particularly women and girls from these crimes.

Justice Minister Victoria Atkins said: “It is unacceptable that women and girls travelling on public transport, or just going about their day-to-day lives, are being subjected to this despicable practice.

“Cyberflashing can cause deep distress to victims and our changes ensure police and prosecutors have the clarity they need to tackle it and keep people safe.”

On top of the new offence, the Government has committed to several other new criminal offences as part of the Online Safety Bill. These include sending abusive emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages, as well as ‘pile-on’ harassment where many people target abuse at an individual such as in website comment sections.

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