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.”

Comments

what a surpirse....an idiot like this

justsotax | | Permalink

gets a job with the council.....just when they are getting rid of staff.......looks like rather than getting rid of the dead wood they are actually taking it on......

It happens a lot...    2 thanks

waltere | | Permalink

@justsotax - I seem to recall another "idiot" getting a public appointment, even though he had made a grossly inflammatory remark, with clear terrorist intentions.  What was it now... "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now,"  It didn't stop John Betjeman becoming Poet Laureate 35 years later, did it?

You might think that Paul Chambers' remarks were a poor joke (you might think that John Betjeman's poem was an incitement to violence, especially if you live in Slough), but it would be a sad day if we lost our sense of humour.  As the Olympic opening ceremony demonstrated, it's part of who we are in this country. So what about AccountingWeb members offering Paul a job?  Just don't put him in charge of your firm's social media presence.  Ha, ha!

Oh it was a joke....

justsotax | | Permalink

it must just be my sense of humour.....(or lack of) although i see he has the support of Al 'not so funny' Murray so maybe that explains a lot.

 

Perhaps next time he should take advice off someone like Frankie Boyle.....the joke would then hit that humor button (albeit it may be a little sick and may make people cringe).

Bit sad    1 thanks

The Black Knight | | Permalink

Bid sad that it had to go all the way to the high court before anyone had some common sense, or got to the legal point.

If the anti terror police have nothing better to do than terrorise members of the public that make jokes they clearly do not have much else to do or are completely useless in the first place.

What an unfriendly world we now live in because of this policing.

Can you imagine the same level of thickness being applied to a complex matter such as money laundering? Still perhaps money launderers and terrorists are safe because although they are not very bright those responsible for dealing with them are just as stupid.

It might not have been the cleverest thing to tweet granted but should we really arrest someone for every silly tweet? (there are quite a lot)

@the black knight....

justsotax | | Permalink

agree...crazy waste of public money - on a twit (so to speak) - at least if it had actually been funny that would have been something......

There but for the grace of    1 thanks

John Di Mambro | | Permalink

There but for the grace of God..........and all that.

Haven't we all done silly things in our time?

 

twitt er

asking | | Permalink

Not sure calling him an idiot or twit makes you sound any better? Councils- not everyone losing their job is deadwood.

 Anyway, a complete waste of money, not on a single person, but on the whole basis of the prosecution. A silly comment that presumably wasnt intended for you or me to read has ruined his career.

 

Twit was a play

justsotax | | Permalink

on words...but accepted maybe he is not an idiot...

 

On the other hand - not intended for you or me....perhaps he should consider not 'tweeting' then....its not rocket science....twitter is in the public domain.....even at my senior age I know that.....

and I bet

asking | | Permalink

he wishes he had never tweeted it !

He wont be the last........but then you already know that too....

 

Sure do....

justsotax | | Permalink

there appears to be no end of 'twits' who blindly tweet thinking that only their limited number of followers will see the tweet......and i thought these guys were IT literate.....

A catalogue of idiots    2 thanks

Roland195 | | Permalink

In my view, equally guilty of idiocy are:-

1.Mr Chambers himself - Questionable sense of humour but even more questionable judgement

2.The Off-Duty Airport Manager who reported it - Likely a jobsworth with a sense of humour bypass (even if it was not funny it should at least been identifiable as a joke).

3. The Police who investigated it - Doubtless they formed the same opinion as in the Naked Rambler - We can't be seen not to be seen to do something about it.

4. The CPS for pursuing the matter - A limited budget well spent?

5. The Court System for not dismissing it as Frivolous (although some damn lawyer will no doubt argue that it could not be frivolous as it had sufficient legal merit).

6. The many lawyers involved in the fiasco. There is no human misery on Earth that is not caused by a lawyer if you dig deep enough. 

 

 

Product of a modern environment

The Black Knight | | Permalink

When you consider that our children have grown up in an environment of constantly being watched and recorded so that nothing is private.

Is it any wonder that those matters which would have remained private mutterings or at least contained amongst family and friends are now in the public domain.

Most think nothing of airing their dirty laundry on facebook or twitter.

Agreed

mackthefork | | Permalink

The world has gone totally mad since 2001, you now have to risk losing your toiletries with your clothes when you go on holiday, this is just my personal opinion and may not be popular but, I do not think the world wide waste of time and money is worth the small number of lives which may or may not be saved.  There I said it.  to prove a point we could probably save 10,000 times more lives by making every car driver wear a crash helmet and 6 point safety belt, yet we don't do this because it is a) expensive and b) wastes productive time.  I am genuinely sorry if this offends you.

Regards

MtF

The problem is....

mackthefork | | Permalink

justsotax wrote:

there appears to be no end of 'twits' who blindly tweet thinking that only their limited number of followers will see the tweet......and i thought these guys were IT literate.....

Why should he not, apart from the fact it is dumb, being dumb is not a crime, if it was all the donks involved in this prosecution should be put away, and the key flushed down the judges toilet, seems like once again common sense is rescued by a single reasonable person in a world full of idiots.

MtF