The BlackBerry typo that landed a man in jail

28 Sep 2012
BlackBerry Bold 9780
BlackBerry Bold 9780

There are quite a few stories on the Daily Mail website that are genuinely jaw-dropping, but none more so than the one that was brought to my attention by @allpointsnorth last night.

It concerns the case of 24-year-old swimming coach, Craig Evans, who was this week freed on appeal from an 18-month jail sentence for seemingly doing nothing more than accidentally sending an intimate text message to his entire address book.

Evans intended to send the message to his girlfriend, in which he reportedly asked her to have sex with him “skin on skin”, and asking whether she would prefer it to be “fast or slow”.  Nothing particularly explicit, although certainly not a message you’d want children to see.

Why this story hasn't become an enormous scandal, along the lines of the Paul Chambers Twitter trial, astonishes me

Unfortunately, that’s just what happened, because somehow Evans managed to send the message to all the people in his BlackBerry Messenger address book, including two girls aged 13 and 14 who were in his swimming class. He was subsequently arrested and charged with “causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity”, and – incredibly – jailed for 18 months at Birmingham Crown Court in July.

Thankfully, his lawyers managed to locate a member of the judiciary with a modicum of common sense at the appeals court in London this week. Lord Justice Elias reportedly accepted that Evans hadn’t intended to target the girls with the explicit message, not least because it was also sent to several members of Evans’ own family. “It is difficult to conclude that he was targeting anyone,” Judge Elias concluded, before freeing – but not clearing – Evans. His sentence was merely reduced to a nine-month suspended jail term.  He will presumably spend the next however many years on the sex offenders’ register, ruining his career as a swimming coach.

Why this story hasn't become an enormous scandal, along the lines of the Paul Chambers Twitter trial, astonishes me. In fact, a quick trawl of Google News finds only The Daily Mail and one other newspaper reporting it.

Remember, Chambers was merely fined for sending out a jokey tweet that the police somehow misinterpreted as a threat to blow up an airport, and the conviction was eventually quashed. Evans has already spent three months in jail for what seems like nothing more than a hideously unfortunate typo, and still has a sex crime conviction against his name.

Perhaps someone needs to let Stephen Fry, Al Murray and Chambers’ other celebrity backers know about this latest instance of the British justice system failing to grasp modern technology?

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