The UK Is About To Introduce A 'Cyberflashing' Law That Makes Sending Unsolicited Photos Of Genitals A Crime
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'Cyberflashers' could face jail time under revised sexual assault legislation in the UK.
In England and Wales, there's currently no specific offence against cyberflashing, while indecent exposure can see people forced to sign the sex offenders’ register and serve a maximum of two years in prison.
In Scotland, it’s an offence to cause a person to look at a sexual image without their consent, and the crime was added to its Sexual Offences Act more than a decade ago.
Cyberflashing is the sending of unsolicited, obscene image(s) to strangers over any form of online messaging, whether it be WhatsApp or Facebook, or transferring them to another person’s phone using Bluetooth services like AirDrop on iPhones – the latter has become increasingly common, especially for women on public transport.
Under new plans to bring online indecent exposure in line with indecent exposure in public, cyberflashing will be added to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, The Times reports, with perpetrators facing two years behind bars and being added to the sex offenders register.
Ministers originally considered adding the offence to the upcoming Online Safety Bill following a recommendation from the Law Commission.
However, due to concerns over the large bill making its way onto the statute book this year, set to force companies to take stronger action against 'harmful' content, the offence will instead be added to the Sexual Offences Act as a smaller, separate piece of legislation unlikely to face any pushback.
Perpetrators could still be found guilty of cyberflashing if they sent an image of genitalia that wasn't their own.
The offence could also be added to the Victims Bill, set to reform how victims of crime are heard, served and protected, or using a private member's bill.
Victoria Atkins, the Ministry of Justice's lead on rape and serious sexual offences, as well as violence against women and girls, said the government 'absolutely supports' the plans for a cyberflashing offence.
"We are actively looking at that, but we very much understand the need for speed and, indeed, the wish of women and girls for the issue to be dealt with quickly," she said.
Clare McGlynn QC, a Durham University professor and expert on cyberflashing, also told Insider there's a "clear choice" between a 'limited law because we are worrying about over-criminalising men who send penis images not sure if they have consent' and one which 'prioritises the rights of women and girls'.