Laura Davis: A momentary slip was not abuse. It was careless

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The Independent Online

A man who sent a sexy text message to a lover was jailed for 18 months in July. Must've been one hell of a saucy message, right?

It was actually decidedly tame. The 24-year-old swimming coach accidentally used BlackBerry Messenger to deliver the message to all the numbers on his phone.

Unfortunately, among the recipients were two girls aged 13 and 14, which led to Craig Evans, who teaches swimming in a leisure centre, being arrested and charged with causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Yes, purposefully sending a sexual text to a minor is and should be an offence, it really goes without saying. But shouldn't mitigating factors have been considered in this case?

His lawyers understandably went to the Court of Appeal in London this week to have his conviction overturned. Lord Justice Elias, who was granting the appeal, said the circumstances were "unusual" and agreed that Evans had been "evidently misguided" in the use of his phone.

Couldn't human error have been factored in such a case? It was delivered to every contact in his phone – including family. Obviously I don't know him personally, but I'd hazard a guess and say that he was probably quite embarrassed when his mum asked why he was asking her for "skin on skin" and whether she would prefer it to be "fast or slow".

We've all had that horror moment when you go off on one about a colleague, and then, a sharp intake of breath as your finger clicks on send and you realise that their name wasn't just mentioned in the message, but in the "To" box as well. And the rampant (but futile) clicking inevitably fails to withdraw the embarrassing mistake.

But sharing thoughts shouldn't be an offence if unintended. We are privy to our own disagreeable thoughts which we share with others we trust. It would be naïve to think that nobody says things to close friends and partners that they wouldn't want others to know about.

If someone did want to engage in illegal sexual activity, it's unlikely they would broadcast a message to everyone they know. And having spent his time in prison (which was, in this case, to serve which purpose? Punishment, rehabilitation?), he would have not been able to continue in his job working with children, and he'd also then risked featuring on the registered sex offenders list.

Any inappropriate behaviour towards children should be taken seriously, but sending a man to jail for a momentary slip which saw teenagers view a message – not intended for them – just undermines the legal system. It wasn't abuse, it was carelessness.