Trainee’s Twitter conviction quashed
Former trainee accountant Paul Chambers celebrated on the court steps last Friday after the High Court overturned his conviction for sending a menacing tweet to Robin Hood Airport during the blizzards of January 2010.
“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!!” he tweeted.
The post was reported by an off-duty airport manager and not long after, Chambers was confronted with the offending message by anti-terror police officers and charged under the Communications Act 2003 with sending a menacing electronic communication.
Chambers lost his job as a finance supervisor and was subsequently was found guilty and fined £385 plus £600 in costs and a £15 victim surcharge.
The Chambers case became a focus for free speech campaigners including comedians Steven Fry and Al Murray. Online support movement also came from people tweeting similar messages with the hashtag #IamSparacus.
In spite of these protests, the Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in November 2011, prompting a further appeal to the High Court.
For the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and his fellow judges, the airport manager’s view that the tweet was not a credible threat should have put a stop to the prosecution that followed.
“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,” the judges concluded as they struck down the conviction.
Outside court, Chambers told the BBC the case had made him unemployable.
After losing his job, Chambers moved to Northern Ireland to join his fiancée, @crazycolours. He found a council job through an intermediary and while he had declared the prosecution to the agency, it had not passed the information on to his employer. When the case came to light, he lost this job too.
But with his name cleared, things are looking up. On Sunday, he told followers on Twitter that he had moved back to Corby and was preparing for work in the morning for the first time in 22 months, but as a warehouseman rather than finance manager.
At this point, it is worth repeating the appeal put out in November 2010 by AccountingWEB member @quinex1: “Please would @AccountingWEBuk followers give @pauljchambers a chance to reclaim his career? It would make everyone happy.”