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Court victory for Twitter airport bomb joker

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 27 Jul 2012 at 10:31

Paul Chambers, the man put through more than two years of legal torment over a joke tweet sent in frustration at airport delays, has won a High Court appeal against his conviction.

The Twitter joke trial case was finally given a dose of common sense when judges ruled that the tweet couldn't really have been taken seriously.

The 2010 tweet - "Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!" - saw Chambers dragged through the courts, fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs after being convicted at Doncaster Magistrates' Court in May 2010.

Chambers and his team have been fighting to clear his name ever since, with popular support from celebrities and comedians backing the right to make jokes on social networks.

According to the judges, Chambers' "appeal against conviction will be allowed on the basis that this 'tweet' did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character".

Two years of a man's life, stress and massive public costs wasted over an obvious joke

The initial conviction was for sending a "menacing electronic message", but the High Court said the initial decision was wrong, because there was nothing menacing in the tweets.

"There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s 'tweet', or indeed anyone else who may have seen the 'tweet' posted on the appellant’s timeline, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming," the judges ruled.

Chambers' solicitor David Allen Green, who had been given special permission to tweet from the courtroom, kept his live blogging to a minimum, with just two one-word tweets - "Win" and "Acquittal".

Call for inquiry

The case has taken on a wider significance with comedians and free speech advocates alike concerned that sanctions for jokes set a bad precedent.

Chambers' MP said the fact that the case had even made it to the courts, with costs and upheaval to Chambers' life, should spark an inquiry.

"The Crown Prosecution Service owe my constituent and the country a huge apology for a shameful prosecution that should never have been brought," said Louise Mensch, Conservative MP, on her Twitter feed.

"Whether it is the Justice or Home Affairs Select Committee, the CPS and this decision should be investigated on Parliament's return. Two years of a man's life, stress and massive public costs wasted over an obvious joke."

The ruling noted that the case had gone ahead despite the South Yorkshire Police stating that: "The male in question has been bailed and his phone/computer has been seized – there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that there is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter as a joke for only his close friends to see."

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User comments

Easy come, easy go ...

Another example of Civil Servants polishing their swords with other peoples money. Whoever was responsible for authorising this obvious debacle in the CPS should be sacked, but no doubt there will be a huge hierarchy of butt-covering and finger pointing.

This guy deserves serious compensation for what he has been put through, but of course we will have to pay for that too.

By cookdn on 27 Jul 2012

At last - Sense!

The fact that the police took a week to even go see the chap should have been quite enough to show they didn't take it seriously, either.
I can see why the CPS decided to prosecute, setting a precedent and all that - but still, too much, too far & sticking too close to the letter of the 'rules' rather than the spirit.

By greemble on 27 Jul 2012

Waste of time and money

They should charge him with wasting police time.

By peterm2k on 27 Jul 2012

Hard to criticise the CPS - they take stuff on that will likely result in a conviction and that's what they got first time around. The problem lies with the police and the first judge.

I find this case bizarrely polarising; most seeing it for what it was, others unable to put the comment in context and having a complete absence of common sense. As the judge said, the comment is clearly not menacing; it's a joke.
If you are one of these special people that can't see this, DO NOT GOOGLE FOR "AHMED THE TERRORIST". You will be in fear of your life. I can imagine you shrinking back in your chair and quivering with fear.
"Why are you all laughing at him, run you fools! He KILL you!"

By Mark_Thompson on 28 Jul 2012

@peterm2k

.
They should charge the police officers involved with wasting police time.
.
Then sack them for having no noticeable degree of common sense.

By qpw3141 on 28 Jul 2012

"more than two years of legal torment"

Finally, common sense! But why put this guy through this for 2 years?

Let's look on the bright side. At the the lawyers got paid.

And no one will be sacked or disciplined over this because, well... we don't do things like that any more.

By Alfresco on 28 Jul 2012

Maybe the police should arrest a few corrupt bankers instead

By luckyse7en on 29 Jul 2012

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