Feeds

Twitter airport bomb joke conviction binned in common-sense WIN

Obviously, you must be having a laff, says High Court

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A bloke found guilty of tweeting a "menacing" joke about blowing up a UK airport has had his conviction quashed by the High Court today. A collective sigh of relief was heard moments later from comedians addicted to the micro-blogging website.

Paul Chambers, 28, was waiting to fly from Doncaster's Robin Hood airport to Belfast to see his girlfriend, whom he met on the social networking site, when snow closed the airfield and delayed his flight.

He vented his frustration in a series of tweets to his squeeze Sarah Tonner, now his fiancee, including a suggestion that he had considered "resorting to terrorism" to ensure he could visit her.

A couple of hours later, he tweeted this notorious joke, which came to the attention of airport police five days later:

Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!

South Yorkshire police cuffed Chambers while he was at work seven days after he had posted the offending tweet. He was later convicted at a crown court in 2010 on the grounds that the message was considered "menacing per se", and so he launched a celebrity-backed series of appeals against the guilty verdict.

Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams said in the High Court today that the facts needed to be considered in context, pointing out that the tweets had clearly appeared to be a reference to the airport closing due to adverse weather conditions.

"There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s 'tweet', or indeed anyone else who may have seen the 'tweet' posted on the appellant’s time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming," the High Court heard.

In its assessment of the case, the High Court judged that Chambers' appeal against his conviction should stand. The justices said:

The grievance addressed by the message is that the airport is closed when the writer wants it to be open. The language and punctuation are inconsistent with the writer intending it to be or to be taken as a serious warning.

Comedians, who naturally took to Twitter to celebrate, were delighted by the justices' sudden outbreak of common sense.

Chambers' High Court win can be viewed here [PDF]. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.