THE BLOG

Proudman v Carter-Silk: A Misplaced Debate?

17/09/2015 16:13 BST | Updated 15/09/2016 10:12 BST

There has been much debate over the past few days as to whose error of judgement is greater - solicitor Alex Carter-Silk's, for using LinkedIn to comment on a female barrister's profile picture? Or Charlotte Proudman's, the barrister in question, for publically vilifying Carter-Silk?

Carter-Silk and Proudman are all over the media, and battle lines have been drawn. Hundreds of column inches have been devoted to the 57-year-old male's alleged "unthinking sexism" and the younger woman's so called "perv-shaming" but the dust is now, thankfully, settling.

I say "thankfully" because there are other aspects of contemporary gender relations and sexual mores that are, in my view, far more significant than the Proudman v Carter Silk episode. I'm not denigrating Proudman's right to object to what she characterises as sexism, and I'm not condoning Carter-Silk's overture to her, if there in fact was anything wrong with it, but it is perhaps regrettable that hundreds of thousands of social media shares, tweets and comments have been devoted to this when a recent benchmark judgment on a more lamentable sexual crime - revenge porn - was hardly given a backward glance.

At the beginning of this month, Jason Asagba was given a six-month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, after he shared intimate pictures of a 20-year-old woman on Facebook and sent them to her family. 'Revenge Porn', the sharing of explicit content without the subject's consent and with intent to cause distress was made illegal in February this year by the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. Asagba was the first person to be convicted under the new 'Revenge Porn' offence in July this year. Despite this 'legal first' Asagba's sentencing has gone relatively unnoticed and hasn't sparked the media debate that was expected.

Was a suspended sentence right for Asagba? Perhaps - the court will have adjudged what was appropriate on the particular facts of the case, and he will also have been given credit for entering a prompt guilty plea. Others will disagree. But in April, a California court felt a much stronger sentence was merited for 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert, who had set up websites that first posted revenge porn images, then charged the victims to remove them. He was handed a jail term of 18 years.

With such a huge gulf between the sentencing of the perpetrators and facilitators of revenge porn, perhaps the media storm and debate generated by Proudman and Carter-Silk's briefest, most virtual of encounters would have been better directed at the issue of revenge porn - a vile crime which is an increasing problem in modern society - and what, if anything, will serve as an effective deterrent.