Twitter joke trial awaits High Court judgement

Stephen Fry and Al Murray were at the High Court today to appeal the Twitter joke trial, but no final verdict was reached.

The Twitter joke trial entered the final stage today. Stephen Fry, Al Murray and Father Ted writer Graham Linehan were at the High Court today to back a man convicted over a jokey tweet -- but no final verdict was reached.

Paul Chambers, 27, who tweets as pauljchambers, was convicted in May last year of sending a "menacing electronic communication". Today he and his legal team presented their arguments to the High Court to appeal for the conviction to be overturned. Judgement has been reserved and a decision will be announced at a later date.

The 27-year-old accountant from Doncaster was arrested after tweeting, "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" in January 2010 (the asterixes are ours, we should point out). Chambers' legal team argued that the context and tone of the post clearly showed it was a joke, but a judge ruled the tweet contained menace.

Chambers has lost two jobs since his arrest. The offending tweet has earned him a criminal record and thousands of pounds in legal costs as well as thousands of pounds in fines.

With appeals, the case has now lasted well over two years. Chambers' plight has attracted high-profile support, including Stephen Fry , who said he was 'prepared to go to prison' -- again -- over the case.

The case has been widely tweeted about by those in court and those following the case as it unfolds on Twitter under the hashtag #twitterjoketrial. Even though it was obviously a joke, the law takes a dim view of anything that cold be interpreted as a threat or incitement -- as some recent convicts found when they were sentenced to years of imprisonment for creating a Facebook page during last year's riots.

Do you think a tweet deserves this much fuss? Joke or not, is there a difference between threatening to blow up an airport and calling for people to riot? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.

 

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