A legal analyst who works for a Maidenhead-based law firm specialising in sexual harassment and online abuse has turned the tables on bullies who sent inappropriate messages to her - telling them 'you picked the wrong person'.

Jessica Van Meir, an employee of McAllister Olivarius, based in West Street Maidenhead, was travelling alone to the US when she started receiving inappropriate messages from a group of men on Virgin’s in-flight messaging system. One of the men told her 'welcome to hell' and warned 'you are now in the danger zone'.

Jessica was quick to tell them just who they were dealing with and warned them that they would be reported to Virgin. The men and Virgin were just as quick to apologise but Jessica has warned them 'It is not OK to talk to women this way'.

Jessica has also received online abuse since the story was picked up by mainstream media outlets, prompting associate lawyer Amy Kowalski to speak out in support of her colleague this week.

She said: “The onus is often placed on us to keep ourselves safe — to not accept the chat request, to dress a certain way, to behave a certain way — but our message to perpetrators is that they are the ones who need to change. Let’s put the shame where it belongs.”

Speaking about Jessica’s story, Dr Ann Olivarius, senior partner at McAlister Olivarius, challenged companies like Virgin to do more to anticipate potential issues, instead of reacting to problems once they occur. Responding to Virgin’s decision to withdraw its chat service, and referring to comments Richard Branson made on its launch, she tweeted: “One man’s chipper way to ‘Get lucky at 35.000 feet’ is, unsurprisingly, other men’s tech tool to sexually harass women.

“This is why we need more #womenintech, developing the new technologies.”

Elaborating on her comments she said this week: “While anyone can be a victim of revenge porn and online abuse, it is becoming worryingly routine for women and girls. Frankly, the problems with the Virgin system could and should have been anticipated. We’re not opposed to innovation but it needs to be engineered with safety at its core, not as an afterthought.”