Judge defends man who was abusive on social media

By Rebecca Sullivan

Zane Alchin was sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond for vulgar online comments about women. Screengrab from Daily Mail
Zane Alchin was sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond for vulgar online comments about women. Screengrab from Daily Mail

WARNING: Graphic content

A Sydney magistrate has defended a man who wrote abusive comments about women on Facebook, saying the community response to Zane Alchin's behaviour caused him pain he "didn't deserve".

Alchin, 25, from Caringbah in Sydney's south, pleaded guilty in June to using a carrier service to menace, harass and cause offence, which carries a maximum sentence of three years' imprisonment.

Yesterday he was convicted and sentenced to a 12-month good behaviour bond. He will not face any jail time.

Last August, Alchin posted a series of comments on social media about Sydney woman Olivia Melville's Tinder bio, one of which was "the best thing about feminists is they don't get action, so when you rape them it's 100 times tighter".

When Alchin's comments were made public, he received dozens of abusive messages online and was the subject of intense media scrutiny.

In his judgement today, Magistrate William Pierce drew gasps from the courtroom when he described Melville's Tinder bio as an "inflammatory comment of a sexual nature".

Her bio read: "Type of girl that will suck you dry and then eat some lunch with you," a lyric from Canadian singer Drake's hit song Only.

Magistrate Pierce appeared to sympathise with Alchin, who he said had "already paid for it big time" in the form of abusive comments.

He described the response of Melville's friends to Alchin as a "vast overreaction" and said these comments had caused Alchin "a great deal of pain which you didn't deserve".

Magistrate Pierce said Alchin's comments about feminists were "not an incitement of rape". "You were not threatening rape," he said.

Magistrate Pierce compared the social media environment, and the response to Alchin's original comments, to a football match.

"My view is the closest analogy is a game of football," he said. "If you're on the football field you consent to a few bumps. You don't consent to being king hit with savage right hook that knocks you out for 10 minutes."

During his sentencing at Downing Centre Local Court yesterday, Alchin's lawyer Sophie Walsh said her client didn't mean to threaten or intimidate anyone with his remarks, but he did intend to offend.

She said Alchin had drunk half a bottle of bourbon and "in his mind" was defending his friend Hall.

Walsh said her client had received a torrent of abuse online since he was charged, and was currently receiving counselling for anxiety and depression.

"He hates himself. He's embarrassed and humiliated," she said.

She read out dozens of comments directed towards Alchin, including one calling him a "pathetic little wee stain", and another which said "you're a f***ing c**t you need to be shot in the f***ing head".

Walsh said it was a "brain snap" which led to her client becoming the "poster boy" for online trolls, and as such he had "become a far greater victim of the crime".

"This is a few hours out of a man's life, who is of completely good character," she said.

Melville's friends have formed a group called Sexual Violence Won't Be Silenced and have led the campaign against Alchin.

Outside court on yesterday, the group's spokeswoman Paloma Brierley Newton said the result was appropriate, but said Magistrate Pierce's comments in court were an "absolute slap in the face" to Australian women.

"We got the result that I think was appropriate for the situation. The way that it was handled by the judge is questionable," she said.

"The fact that he said that raping a feminist was better because they're 100 times tighter is disgusting. The fact that he can get away with saying that because he had half a bottle of bourbon ... is disgusting."

Brierley Newton hopes that Alchin's conviction sends a message to men that abusive online comments will not be tolerated.

"You cannot spew this kind of vitriol. You cannot start attacking women because it makes you feel like a man, because you look like a pig," she said.

But both Brierley Newton and Melville are yet to receive an apology from Alchin.

"All I've seen him do is flip the bird at the media. All I've seen him do is attack the media, incite the media. All I've seen him do today is stare me down every single second he got the opportunity," she said.

This case began last August, when a different man named Chris Hall posted a screenshot of Melville's Tinder profile on Facebook.

Hall posted the screenshot on his Facebook page with the caption, "Stay classy ladies. I'm surprised she'd still be hungry for lunch."

Hall was later fired from his job for violating his employer's social media policy.

Melville's friends shared Hall's post on their own Facebook pages and criticised him for his offensive language.

Alchin commented on several of these posts calling Melville and her friends "f***ing basic sluts" and said "the best thing about feminists is they don't get action, so when you rape them it's 100 times tighter".

His other Facebook comments included "it's people like you who make it clear women should never have been given rights" and "I'd rape you if you were better looking".

- news.com.au

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