People Sending Unwanted Sexual Images Face Up To Two Years In Jail
person using smartphone
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

People Sending Unwanted Sexual Images Face Up To Two Years In Jail

Rachael Grealish March 14, 2022

‘Cyberflashing’ – sending unwanted sexual images – could land people up to two years in jail under new laws.

Ministers confirmed yesterday, Sunday March 13, laws banning ‘cyberflashing’ will be included in the Government’s Online Safety Bill alongside wide-ranging reforms to keep people safe on the internet.

What is ‘Cyberflashing’?

The practice typically involves offenders sending an unsolicited sexual image – also known as ‘dick pics’ – to people via social media or dating apps, but can also be over data sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop.

In some instances, a preview of the photo can appear on a person’s device – meaning that even if the transfer is rejected victims are forced into seeing the image.

According to research by Professor Jessica Ringrose from 2020 76 percent of girls aged 12-18 had been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men.

Alongside this a YouGov research from 2018 claims nearly half of young women aged 18-34 have been sent unsolicited sexual images.

What Does The Bill Mean For ‘Cyberflashers’?

The bill gives police and Crown Prosecution Service greater ability to bring more perpetrators to justice.

It follows similar recent action to criminalise upskirting and breastfeeding voyeurism with the Government determined to protect people, particularly women and girls, from these emerging crimes.

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

It follows a Law Commission review ‘Modernising Communications Offences’ which recommended that a new offence should be created.

The bill will also put more legal responsibility on social media platforms, search engines and other websites to tackle a range of illegal and harmful content on their services.

Alongside the new cyberflashing offence, the Government has previously committed to creating three other new criminal offences through this Bill, tackling a wide range of harmful private and public online communication.

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.

What Ministers And Professionals Say

The Justice Minister, Victoria Atkins, said it was ‘unacceptable’ people are subjected to receiving the unwanted images.

She 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.’

Professor Penney Lewis, Criminal Law Commissioner at the Law Commission, said the number of these cases are ‘rising worryingly’ adding it must be ‘treated as seriously as in-person flashing’.

P:rof Lewis said: ‘Whilst the online world offers important opportunities to share ideas and engage with one another, it has also increased the scope for abuse and harm. Reports of cyberflashing are rising worryingly.

‘This offence will close loopholes in the existing law and ensure that cyberflashing is treated as seriously as in-person flashing.’

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know
Rachael is the Senior Content Editor at Freshered. She is NCTJ qualified with an MA in journalism. Rachael has almost ten years experience as a journalist in regional, national and international press and is passionate about creating engaging content.