Does the law on cyberflashing need reform? Cyberflashing – where someone sends a penis image to another without their consent – is not currently a criminal offence in England & Wales. It’s often not taken seriously, yet it’s the online version of physical flashing in the street, and it’s a growing problem. Many women experience cyberflashing as a sexual intrusion , often inducing real and paralysing fear. Urgent action is therefore needed to make clear that this conduct is harmful and serious, with criminalisation representing an important first step towards challenging these behaviours. This is the focus of my forthcoming book with Kelly Johnson due out in March 2021: Cyberflashing: recognising harms, reforming laws.
Our evidence to Law Commission consultation: The Law Commission is currently reviewing the law and we have responded to their consultation by recommending a new sexual offence targeting cyberflashing which covers all penis images (not just the offender’s) and is based on non-consent, not the motives of perpetrators. Our detailed consultation response is available here. We’ve also prepared a shorter Stakeholder Briefing and here is a word document with the questions on cyberflashing which can be used to make responding easier: Cyberflashing Consultation Questions 12 Dec 2020 .
Public debate and calls for reform are increasing. I have been pleased to contribute to some of these discussions, including reports from the Reuters Foundation – ‘Gross and shocking’: Women call for new laws to stop cyber-flashing‘ – the Independent ‘The tip of the iceberg’: Cyber-flashing on trains ‘largely unreported’ despite huge rise in incidents‘ and Huffington Post: ‘Flashing And Flashing Can Be Equally Harmful.
You can watch this video from the Reuters Foundation and hear from those who have experienced cyberflashing and why we need action:
You can read more about our proposals for law reform in our article in the Journal of Criminal Law which is free to download and available here. We have also written a short blog outlining the main elements of a specific new criminal offence targeting cyberflashing.