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article imageTwitter joke trial conviction overturned on appeal

By Katerina Nikolas     Jul 27, 2012 in Internet
A High Court ruling has overturned the conviction of Paul Chambers who was found guilty of menace, after posting a joke on Twitter about blowing an airport sky high.
It is more than two years since Paul Chambers was found guilty of menace, after venting his frustration over bad weather closing an airport and disrupting his travel plans by posting on social networking site Twitter "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.”
Justices at the High Court have now overturned the conviction saying "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.” (Telegraph)
The original conviction had been pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service, even though airport security had considered the post a "non-credible" threat made by a “well-educated” man of “previous good character”. Officers from South Yorkshire Police also considered it was just a "foolish comment" but nonetheless the CPS charged Chambers.
The Guardian reported John Cooper QC, who represented Chambers, said "It's an important decision for social networks. It means that in future not only does a message have to be of a truly menacing character but the person who sends it has to intend it to be menacing.
Now people can have a joke even if it's a bad joke … this case should never have been prosecuted and it may be that the CPS will have questions to answer about this."
Mr. Chambers said "It's ridiculous it ever got so far" as he said he felt vindicated by the High Court ruling.
The case highlights the way in which comments made on social media sites are open to scrutiny, putting the issue of freedom of speech centre stage.
More about Paul chambers, twitter joke trial, menacing tweet, robin hood airport, john cooper qc
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