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Twitter joke appeal adjourned

Justice delayed

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Paul Chambers, the Twitter joke marytr, began his appeal against a widely ridiculed conviction for sending a message "threatening" to blow Doncaster airport "sky high" on Friday.

Chambers, 27, got into all sorts of trouble after posting an ill-conceived Twitter update on 6 January, days before he was due to fly over to Belfast to meet a girl (@crazycolours), who has since become his girlfriend. Heavy snow had forced Robin Hood Airport to shut, prompting an over-the-top rant by Chambers via his @pauljchambers account.

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 message was reported to police by an off-duty manager at Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport. Chambers was questioned by anti-terrorist authorities and charged. At a subsequent hearing before Doncaster Magistrates' Court he was convicted of sending a threatening message even after airport officials testified that his message was never taken as a credible threat and had no effect on the airport's operation.

District judge Jonathan Bennett fined Chambers £1,000 after finding him guilty of an offence against the Communications Act of 2003. Chambers lost his job as a trainee accountant after his initial arrest and a second job a week before his appeal against the conviction, at Doncaster Crown Court on 24 September.

The appeal hinged on arguments that Chambers' original tweet update could not reasonably be considered as menacing.

"This [message] is obviously facetious," defence barrister Stephen Ferguson told Judge Jacqueline Davies at Doncaster Crown Court, The Guardian reports.

The court also heard that a police officer handling Chambers case said bail was allowed because "there is no evidence at this stage this is anything other than a foolish comment posted on Twitter for only his close friends to see".

However Caroline Wiggin, appearing for the prosecution, said Chambers had sent an earlier direct message at a time when it looked like Doncaster Airport might close that said: "I was thinking if it does I have decided to resort to terrorism."

The case was expected to be heard in one day but has been delayed to consider an application from the defence to have the conviction quashed. No date has been set for the resumption of the hearing.

Lawyer Allen Green (@davidallengreen) helped co-ordinate the appeal. Other supporters include Graham Linehan, writer of the IT Crowd.

Green, writing in the New Statesman, compared Chambers' comment to the famous phrase from John Betjeman's poem "Slough": "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough" arguing that neither should be considered literally. ®

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