A Basildon sex offender has become the first in the country to be jailed for cyber flashing - leaving many wondering what this criminal offence is.

Nicholas Hawkes (pictured inset), 39, was jailed for one year and three months at Southend Crown Court today after sending unsolicited photos of his private parts to a 15-year-old girl and a woman on February 9.

The woman took screenshots of the photograph on WhatsApp and reported him to Essex Police the same day.

Hawkes was already a convicted sex offender when he sent the unsolicited images after last year being convicted of sexual activity with a child under 16 years old and exposure, for which he also received a community order.

What is cyber flashing?

According to the UK Government website, the practice of cyber flashing "typically involves offenders sending an unsolicited sexual image to people via social media or dating apps."

This can also be over data sharing services such as Bluetooth and Airdrop.

In some instances, a preview of the image can appear on someone's device, meaning that if the sharing request is rejected, the victim is still forced to see the image.

The Evening Standard states that those found guilty of cyber flashing could face two years in prison and up to 10 years in the Sex Offenders Register.

The legislation was introduced after it was found that 76 per cent of girls aged 12 to 18 had been sent unsolicited nude images.

Discussing the 2022 law, then-Minister of State for Prisons and Probation Victoria Atkins 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."

Is cyber flashing a crime in Scotland?

Yes, cyber flashing has been a crime in Scotland since 2010 after legislation was introduced to the Scottish Parliament.