A SENIOR lawyer has been plagued with hate mail and threats of violence after referring to Rangers during a discussion about domestic abuse.

Nicola Gilchrist, who is also the chair of Scottish Women's Aid, appeared on BBC's The Nine last week to discuss the new coercive control law which is due to come in to force in Scotland tomorrow.

Appearing alongside Fiona Drouet, the mother of student Emily Drouet who took her own life following domestic abuse, Ms Gilchrist explained the new legislation would help to change perceptions and understanding of the crime.

However, she then said domestic abuse was not about "a black eye after the Rangers lose nor something" prompting outrage from fans, and even the club itself called for an explanation.

The BBC were also criticised, with some fans suggesting the advocate was told to mention the club by BBC bosses deliberately – an accusation she strongly denies.

Police have now stepped in to help Ms Gilchrist after her phone number and work details were circulated on social media, and she began receiving thousands of menacing messages.

Officers are investigating the threats, and are understood to have spoken to BBC bosses as well as Ms Gilchrist as part of their inquiries.

Speaking to the Herald on Sunday, the advocate said the repercussions of ill-judged phrasing has been "utterly horrendous".

She said: "It has been relentless – constant emails, tweets, hundreds of messages.

"I have had over 5,000 messages. I've had people calling me, texting me. When they phone they don't say anything but the text messages are things like 'You're a f***ing disgrace'.

"Someone emailed my assistant saying 'sack her', I got a message saying I was 'too ugly to rape'. It has been utterly relentless, some of the stuff is too disgusting for words."

Ms Gilchrist said she was unable to leave her home for nearly a week following her appearance on the show last Friday, March 22. The following day she contacted the police as she was so concerned with the level of threats and abuse she was receiving.

She added: "There were disgusting, horrible things said about me. These people seem to be obsessed with the fact that I must be Catholic, or a Celtic fan – neither of which I am.

"Someone found a tweet about the Lisbon Treaty I had retweeted from ages ago, and commented on that.

"One of my friends had to explain to me why it was being commented on – because they thought it was related to the Lisbon Lions. That is not the Lisbon Treaty."

The reason for referring to Rangers, Ms Gilchrist said, was not intentional and it was not the first time she had used a specific football team name when speaking about the subject.

She explained: "I meant football games in general. The reason I said that team was because it was my grandpa's team and it was a team I was thinking of because they play in the locality of where I was – the BBC studio. I had driven past Ibrox on my way there.

"I have given talks before about domestic abuse in Edinburgh and I've said 'it's not because Hibs lose', or in Inverness: 'it's not because Caley lose'. It's more to do with a sense of place rather than anything else.

"I was parachuted in to that at the last minute, so for people to say I did this deliberately, and 'You know all about the beef with the BBC and Rangers' – I really didn't.

"I was in make-up until 8.55pm and I was on the sofa at eight minutes past nine. There was no talking to anybody."

Amnesty International Scotland has spoken out following the advocate's online trolling experience, and called for police to take a "robust" approach to the threats.

The organisation launched a Toxic Twitter campaign and last year released a report detailing the amount of abuse women suffered on the platform – one abusive or problematic tweet roughly every 30 seconds.

Naomi McAuliffe, Amnesty International’s Scotland Programme Director, said: “Making vile threats on social media is simply unacceptable and we hope to see a robust response from Police Scotland in tackling an increasingly toxic online environment where women experience violence daily. They face a barrage of abuse including racist and sexist attacks to rape and death threats.

“For the past 18 months we’ve been specifically calling on Twitter to take swift and meaningful action by enforcing its own rules on hateful conduct and abuse and making sure it's a safe space for women."

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: "Police Scotland is responding to a report of threats made to an individual within Edinburgh. The matter was reported to police on March 23 and inquiries are ongoing."

The long-running feud between the Ibrox side and the national broadcaster relates to several incidences of what Rangers perceive to be a lack of impartiality in reporting matters involving the club.

In July 2011, the broadcaster was banned over its reporting of then-manager Ally McCoist's views on football violence and sectarianism, for which it apologised.

Three months later, Rangers said it was "withdrawing all co-operation" with the BBC over a documentary about the club's future under Craig Whyte, and over several incidences of unfair or imbalanced reporting.

In 2012, the BBC angered the club again after airing a spoof of the TV drama Mad Men which showed McCoist falling from a building.

Journalists Chris McLaughlin and Chick Young were told to stay away from Ibrox in 2014 after the broadcaster published information about a leaked document which hinted at a plot to sack McCoist.

McLaughlin was banned again in mid-2015 and in January 2016.