Twitter joke trial ends badly as Paul Chambers' appeal is blown sky-high

The so-called Twitter joke trial has ended badly for a man who tweeted a quip about blowing up an airport.

The so-called ' Twitter joke trial ' has ended badly for a man who tweeted a quip about blowing up an airport. Twitter user Paul Chambers, who tweets as pauljchambers, has failed in his appeal today against his original conviction, with thousands of pounds added to his fine.

The 27-year-old accountant 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. Chambers' legal team argued that the context and tone of the post clearly showed it was a joke, but Judge Jacqueline Davies ruled that the tweet contained menace.

Chambers has lost two jobs since his arrest. The offending tweet has earned him a criminal record and £2,000 in costs has today been added to the original £1,000 penalty.

The Twitter joke trial has sparked heated debate here at Crave Towers, and on Twitter. Some believe that even joking about airport security is unacceptable in the current political climate of terror, while others believe free speech is more important.

We can understand that joking about bombs is going to be frowned upon if you're actually in an airport -- there's nothing funny about bombs when you work somewhere terrorists regularly target -- but on the Internet?

The conviction seems to us a massive and thoroughly pointless over-reaction, from the same technophobic and doctrinaire school of thought that banned printer cartridges . Will the police be rounding up all comedians who post videos on YouTube telling jokes about terrorism, or will they kick in the doors of Crave Towers for this article?

Wherever you stand on the moral ambiguities of the case, there are technical reasons why it could be argued the case should never have gone this far. The arresting officers noted at the time that the tweet was a joke, and even worse, the Crown Prosecution Service deliberately avoided using the legislation that specifically targets bomb threats, which requires stronger evidence, and instead charged Chambers with sending a threatening message, contrary to the Communications Act of 2003. That sounds like a calculated and mean-spirited bit of legal chicanery to us.

Where do you stand on the ruling? Was the criminal justice system right to throw the book at Chambers, or is the whole thing a massive waste of judicial time and public money? Will you be watching what you say on Twitter? Let us know in the comments.

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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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