Twitter bomb joker has conviction overturned
27 July 2012
Paul Chambers, the man accused of sending a menacing electronics communication after he joked on Twitter about blowing up an airport, has succeeded in having his conviction overturned.
In a High Court challenge, it was decided that the previous courts had been incorrect in their decisions, and that the tweet – which was not reported until five days after it was posted – should not have been considered threatening.
In January 2010, after snow closed Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire, preventing Chambers from making a much-anticipated trip to visit his girlfriend, he facetiously tweeted the fateful words “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!”
The message was spotted five days later by a security manager at the airport, and a week after sending it, Chambers was arrested by police. He was subsequently found guilty at Doncaster Magistrates’ Court of an offence under the Communications Act 2003, which prohibits the sending of “a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” over publically accessible communications networks, and fined £1,000.
And his initial appeal to the Crown Court failed after it was ruled that the jocular tweet was “clearly menacing”.
However, lord chief justice Lord Judge, in a judgement made alongside Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, said “We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the crown court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.”
It was further stated that “If the person or persons who receive or read it, or may reasonably be expected to receive, or read it, would brush it aside as a silly joke, or a joke in bad taste, or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter, then it would be a contradiction in terms to describe it as a message of a menacing character.”