Paul Chambers found infamy on the internet when he was found guilty of sending “menacing electronic communication” in May 2011 when he joked on Twitter about Robin Hood Airport’s poor service and claiming he would blow it “sky high” unless things improved. Possibly not the funniest tweet, but is hardly threatening, especially when compared to a lot of the empty threats that appear on twitter in the aftermath of celebrity breakups and scandals.
In full the message 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!!”
It was this #TwitterJokeTrial and the surprising involvement of the police and then the law that led many across the twittersphere to start the #IAmSpartacus hashtag, with many repeating his tweet word for word in protest. The public outcry did not, however, have any impact on the result.
He was found guilty by Doncaster magistrates in May 2010 and fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs. An appeal was then dismissed by the Crown Court in November 2010, with the judge stating that the tweet was “clearly menacing” and that airport staff were sufficiently concerned to report it. Others, including his lawyer, John Cooper QC, claimed he was the victim of a legal “steamroller” that threatened to make the law look silly and even if the message was a threat – it could hardly be defined as menacing or criminal.
Chambers has seen support from high profile figures including Stephen Fry and notable comedians such as Al Murray who feared the effect the judgement would have on free speech, but he has suffered with the celebrity in his job prospects and social life with the media frenzy all-consuming.
Today, however, he has finally had his conviction quashed in the High Court with the results finding many interested eyes across rights campaigners and just the social network using public, with his lawyer appropriately announcing the acquittal on Twitter
— David Allen Green (@DavidAllenGreen) July 27, 2012
Chambers’ MP Louise Mensch who has a strong following across social networks has also given both him and his legal team much help in the trial, and sums up the result of the decision quite succinctly with a tweet
The judgment states that satirical, or rude comment, even if distasteful, should continue untrammelled by the law. #twitterjoketrial
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) July 27, 2012
Justice has prevailed in the end.
Here is the full judgement from the High Court:
High Court judgement in Paul Chambers’ #TwitterJokeTrial Appeal
(Photograph by Elliott Brown)