Twitter Joke Trial
November 12, 2010 5:01 AM Subscribe
posted by Catseye (73 comments total)
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Back in May this year, British Twitter user Paul Chambers
was found guilty
of sending a 'menacing electronic communication'.
The communication in question? A Twitter update written when stuck at an airport, saying the following: "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!!"
Paul's lawyer David Allen Green (who blogs as Jack of Kent
), recaps the subsequent events here
. Although the airport considered the threat 'non-credible', the Crown Prosecution Service made the decision to prosecute regardless - under a relatively obscure offence
originally intended for nuisance telephone calls in the 1930s, rather than the offence for which Paul was originally arrested (making a bomb threat against the airport). The CPS interpreted the former to require no actual evidence of intent on Paul's part.
Yesterday, Paul lost his appeal
against the conviction. Judge Jacqueline Davies ruled that the Twitter message was "menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed."
Public interest in the story has grown rapidly since May, most notably on Twitter under the #twitterjoketrial
hashtag. As a result of the trials and conviction, Paul Chambers has lost his job and owes several thousand pounds in legal fees (which Stephen Fry has offered to pay
). The case's long-term consequences for civil liberties in the UK remain uncertain.