Airport bomb Twitter joker in second fine appeal bid
Judges deliberating whether or not to quash conviction
Paul Chambers, the Twitter joker turned misdemeanour conviction martyr, returned to court on Wednesday to launch a second appeal against a conviction over a "threatening message" to blow Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport "sky high".
Chambers, 27, posted the notorious micro-blogging message in early January 2010 while the Yorkshire airport was closed during a cold snap and shortly before he was due to fly to Belfast to meet an online acquaintance, who since became his girlfriend. The trainee accountant ranted via his @pauljchambers account, which had around 600 followers at the time.
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 spotted during an unrelated search and reported by an off-duty member of staff at the airport to police. Even though the message was never taken as a threat, and no extra precautions were taken at Doncaster airport, charges were still brought against Chambers.
Chambers was subsequently convicted for sending a threatening message – which is an offence against the Communications Act of 2003 – fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs as well as getting himself lumbered with a criminal record.
The Twitter joke trial cost the unfortunate Chambers his original job as a trainee accountant as well as losing him a second job in the flurry of publicity just before his Crown court appeal last September. This appeal failed after Judge Jacqueline Davies decided that Chambers' original Twitter update was "obviously menacing", contrary to testimony from the defence that the message was "facetious".
The failed appeal left Chambers with an extra £2,000 in prosecution costs in addition to the original £1,000 fine and costs. Fortunately he wasn't left to bear that cost himself thanks to ordinary Twitter users and celebrities who donated to help fund a further appeal.
Chambers' supporters include Graham Linehan, writer of Father Ted, and comic Al Murray, who took part in a benefit gig on behalf of the Twitter martyr, as well as attending the High court in London to hear Chambers' appeal. Other supporters include lawyer David Allen Green (@davidallengreen) and Stephen Fry.
Ben Emmerson QC, appearing for Chambers, said the Crown Court's decision to uphold the original conviction was both legally incorrect, contrary to common sense and unworkable.
Around 4,000 re-tweeted Chambers' original message in an "I am Sparticus" show of solidarity but no action was taken against any of them
He told Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin that the question before them was "whether this prosecution-conviction-sentence was a steam roller to crack a very small nut and whether it was a disproportionate response", the BBC reports.
The two senior judges retired to consider their ruling on the case which, when it comes, will become the definitive statement in English law on how to treat cases of this type in future. Judgments in the Court of Appeal on points of law set a binding precedent on lower courts, all Crown courts and magistrates' courts in England and Wales. ®