Sheffield campaigner calls for stricter laws against 'cyberflashing' as unsolicited indecent images are being sent to young people

A Sheffield youth activist has called for a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the act of sending unsolicited indecent images – also known as cyberflashing.

By Steven Ross
Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 3:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th July 2021, 3:08 pm
Molly Meleady-Hanley, Sheffield campaigner
Molly Meleady-Hanley, Sheffield campaigner

Molly Meleady-Hanley, chairman of Sheffield Young People’s Equality Group, made the call after the Law Commission recommended that the Sexual Offences Act be amended to encompass cyberflashing.

Under the current proposal, prosecutors would have to prove that the perpetrator sent the image with the aim of causing alarm, humiliation and distress to the victim.

But Molly argues that the act of sending an unwanted explicit picture should be an offence in its own right, regardless of the intent behind the action.

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She said: “Cyberflashing is becoming an unwanted frequent occurrence and not only for older people. In childhood, girls in the main are being targeted by male peers for this offensive practice.

"Many of us aged 18 and under have experienced indecent images being sent to us, without our consent, causing us alarm and distress.

“Whilst the proposed new law to criminalise cyberflashing, as a sexual offence within the upcoming Online Safety Bill is welcome, it has its limitations.

“Instead of focusing on the action of sending unsolicited images without consent and prosecuting such behaviour as a fundamental act of wrongdoing, the proposed law is concentrating on the motivation of these wrongdoers.

“The risk with the let out clauses is that a perpetrator may seek to cover up their real motives and intention.”

An Ofsted review found that 88 per cent of girls had been sent sexual pictures or videos they did not want to see, and other studies found that 76 per cent of girls aged 12-18 years old had been sent unsolicited male genital images.

Molly added: “In schools, colleges and universities we are being taught about consent relating to sex, yet this proposed law turns this on its head by ignoring the issue of consent where cyberflashing is concerned.

“This law goes against the pledges being made by the government and our own local authority here in Sheffield to take action against violence towards girls and women.

“Schools , colleges and universities need to raise awareness and educate their students that cyberflashing is a form of sexual abuse and wrong. They also need to safeguard those people of other gender expressions.”