Lawyer gets over 5,000 hate messages after mentioning Rangers in BBC domestic abuse debate

icola Gilchrist appeared on BBC channel The Nine last week to discuss the new coercive control law which is due to come into force in Scotland tomorrow. Picture: Twitter
icola Gilchrist appeared on BBC channel The Nine last week to discuss the new coercive control law which is due to come into force in Scotland tomorrow. Picture: Twitter

A lawyer who spoke on the BBC about domestic abuse was plagued with more than 5,000 messages containing hate mail and vicious threats after she mentioned Rangers.

Nicola Gilchrist appeared on BBC channel The Nine last week to discuss the new coercive control law which is due to come into force in Scotland tomorrow.

The chair of Scottish Women’s Aid, she spoke alongside the mother of a student who took her own life following domestic abuse, and explained how the new legislation would help to change perceptions and understanding of the crime.

But after mentioning football, saying domestic abuse was not about “a black eye after the Rangers lose nor something”, Ms Gilchrist was bombarded with horrific messages.

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She appeared on television on March 22, but the following day was forced to report the messages to police, after her contact details were posted widely on the internet and football forums.

The advocate, based in Edinburgh, said the repercussions of ill-judged phrasing has been “utterly horrendous”.

Ms Gilchrist told the Herald on Sunday: “It has been relentless - constant emails, tweets, hundreds of messages.

“I have had over 5,000 messages. I’ve had people calling me, texting me.

“When they phone they don’t say anything but the text messages are things like ‘You’re a f***ing disgrace’.

“Someone emailed my assistant saying ‘sack her’, I got a message saying I was ‘too ugly to rape’.

“It has been utterly relentless, some of the stuff is too disgusting for words.”

She appeared on the show on March 22 but said she was unable to leave her home for nearly a week afterwards, and contacted the police the following day.

The lawyer added: “There were disgusting, horrible things said about me.

“These people seem to be obsessed with the fact that I must be Catholic, or a Celtic fan - neither of which I am.

“Someone found a tweet about the Lisbon Treaty I had retweeted from ages ago, and commented on that.

“One of my friends had to explain to me why it was being commented on - because they thought it was related to the Lisbon Lions. That is not the Lisbon Treaty.”

She said she referred to Rangers having driven past the Ibrox stadium on the way to the BBC HQ.

Ms Gilchrist said: “I meant football games in general.

“The reason I said that team was because it was my grandpa’s team and it was a team I was thinking of because they play in the locality of where I was - the BBC studio.

“I had driven past Ibrox on my way there.

“I have given talks before about domestic abuse in Edinburgh and I’ve said ‘it’s not because Hibs lose’, or in Inverness ‘it’s not because Caley lose’.

“It’s more to do with a sense of place rather than anything else.

“I was parachuted in to that at the last minute, so for people to say I did this deliberately, and ‘You know all about the beef with the BBC and Rangers’ - I really didn’t.

“I was in make-up until 8.55pm and I was on the sofa at 9.08pm.

“There was no talking to anybody.”

Amnesty International Scotland called for police to take a “robust” approach to the threats.

The organisation launched a campaign, Toxic Twitter, and last year released a report detailing the amount of abuse women suffered, with one abusive tweet sent roughly every 30 seconds.

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland programme director, said: “Making vile threats on social media is simply unacceptable and we hope to see a robust response from Police Scotland in tackling an increasingly toxic online environment where women experience violence daily.

“They face a barrage of abuse including racist and sexist attacks to rape and death threats. For the past 18 months we’ve been specifically calling on Twitter to take swift and meaningful action by enforcing its own rules on hateful conduct and abuse and making sure it’s a safe space for women.”

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland is responding to a report of threats made to an individual within Edinburgh.

“The matter was reported to police on March 23 and inquiries are ongoing.”