U.K. judge nixes Twitter bomb joke conviction

In 2010, Paul Chambers tweeted about "blowing [Robin Hood Airport] sky high" and was convicted for that "menacing" electronic outburst. On appeal, that decision gets thrown out.

A man found guilty of sending a menacing tweet threatening to blow up an airport has won a high court challenge to his conviction.

In January 2010, Paul Chambers sent a single, frustrated tweet to approximately 600 followers after Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire, England, was closed due to heavy snow.

The tweet in question read:

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 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to prosecute Chambers under section 127(1) of the Communications Act 2003, for sending a message "of a menacing character" through a "public electronic communications network." Originally, the act was limited to telephone exchanges back in the 1930s; however, the U.K. government revived the act to cover all forms of Internet communication.

Chambers was found guilty in May 2010 of sending a "menacing electronic communication," fined 385 pounds ($594) and ordered to pay 600 pounds ($925) in costs. But has always maintained it was no more than a "silly joke."

An earlier appeal by Chambers in Doncaster Crown Court by Chambers was dismissed, but he was allowed to appeal again.

At today's hearing at the High Court in London, his conviction was overturned. As a result, Chambers had the fine of 385 pounds quashed, and was awarded costs.

According to the Guardian, the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, 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.

 

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