PCC Caroline Henry
Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry has welcomed new proposals criminalising 'cyber-flashing' as part of efforts to increase protection for women and girls.
Under reforms outlined in the Government’s landmark Online Safety Bill, perpetrators of ‘cyber-flashing’ will face up to two years in jail for their crimes.
It is part of a wider Government effort to ensure laws keep pace with emerging crimes and that the public are protected online.
Cyber-flashing is a term used to refer to the practice of sending an unsolicited sexual image to people via social media, dating apps or via data sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop.
In some cases, a preview of the photo can appear on a person’s device – meaning that even if the transfer is rejected victims are still forced into seeing the image.
Commissioner Henry, who has harnessed the support of Nottinghamshire’s MPs in her campaign to make women and girls safer, said: “Sending someone an unwanted sexual image is an absolute violation - and I am glad the proposals recognise that."
"No woman or girl should ever have to put up with receiving unsolicited, inappropriate images.
“Offending in this way will in future carry the same penalty as indecent exposure showing how serious this crime is being treated.
"We owe it to all victims of sexual crimes and violence to do more to protect them."
Research undertaken by Professor Jessica Ringrose from 2020 found that 76 percent of girls aged 12-18 had been sent unsolicited nude images of boys or men.
The new legislation will give the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service greater powers to bring more perpetrators to justice and follows similar action recently to criminalise ‘upskirting’ and breastfeeding voyeurism.
Commissioner Henry is determined to do more to protect women and girls from sexual violence and, alongside partners, is investing £550k in both Worksop and Sutton-in-Ashfield through the Safer Streets 3 programme in support of the Government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. She is also delivering almost £300k worth of safety improvements to Nottingham City through the Safety of Women at Night (SWAN) Fund to make women and girls safer on public transport and enhancing the help available for those visiting the night-time economy with extra high-visibility police patrols and a safe space centre.
This work has included the launch of a high-profile transport campaign developed by the Consent Coalition called the ‘A-Z of Consent’ which raises awareness of what sexual consent means.
Louise Graham, Sexual Violence Lead at Nottinghamshire Crime and Drugs Partnership, said: “At the Consent Coalition we are really pleased to see that a new cyber flashing offence will be included in the Government’s Online Safety Bill. Cyber flashing is where a person digitally sends an unsolicited sexual image, usually of genitals, to another device nearby without their consent. It can happen via social media, Bluetooth and on dating apps and is a form of sexual harassment.
“Sending unsolicited images is the digital equivalent to flashing someone in the street. You wouldn’t do that, why do it online? The Consent Coalition has recently launched our A-Z of Consent campaign, providing key consent facts for each letter of the alphabet, including themes likes sharing photos and videos. Feel free to have a look https://nottssvss.org.uk/consent-coalition/campaigns/az-consent/ Consent is fundamental to online and real life relationships. If you can’t ask or you don’t get consent then you shouldn’t send a nude. Consent applies every time, everywhere.”
Posted on Tuesday 15th March 2022