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back to article Twitter airport bomb spoof joker launches appeal

The Twitter user who jokingly threatened to blow Doncaster airport "sky high" back in January is to appeal against his widely criticised conviction for sending a threatening message. Paul Chambers, 26, got into trouble for posting the ill-conceived micro-blogging update on 6 January, after a run of heavy snow weather forced the …

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he may be an idiot

but that definitely wasn't justice. That was PC/terror type scare tactics from the Judge. A massive over reaction by CPS and the court. All in all a complete f.up of the judicial system.

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Six Of One.....

While I have no doubt that Chambers had absolutely no intention whatsoever of causing damage to Doncaster Airport, I can't help thinking that, in today's paranoid society, broadcasting a missive which implies an act of terrorism is still a bloody stupid thing to do. If he was saying it face-to-face we'd be able to see by his gait and demeanour that it was an absolute jocular comment - akin to stand-up. Unfortunately, all we have is the cold, hard text which states in plain English that he's going to blow the place sky-high. If everyone did this without reproach it would be so much more difficult for security services to home in on 'proper' terrorists who communicate electronically and to this end he should be punished.

On the other hand, he's lost his job, a grand in fines and any credibility he may have had. Perhaps he's been punished enough. Or do we make an example of him?

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Exactly!

Couldn't agree more... Just when did the use of good old fashioned common sense end?

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Anonymous Coward

Quite why do we need to enter a title?

The point isn't that he shouldn't have posted it and should be let off for it, the point is that he should have no reason to not post it when in such an obvious jokey tone and the police & courts shouldn't waste our money simply out of sheer unbelievable stupidity just to make an example of someone who'd done nothing wrong.

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Neither...

If society is paranoid, society has the problem and society needs to deal with itself.

If a paranoid pot smoker hears voices, do we punish the voices...?

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So, let's see

You think that 'proper' terrorists send each other plain text messages along the lines of "Going to blow up the airport today, LOLZ". If only they did - MI5's job would be a lot easier.

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Welcome

Of course there is more...

"Unfortunately, all we have is the cold, hard text which states in plain English that he's going to blow the place sky-high"

Stupid comment - of course we have more. We have the whole context - the fact it was sent openly, to a list of followers, the responses, the history of him as a joker, the fact it wasn't anonymous, the fact it wasn't sent to the airpaort. Indeed we know the airport didn't take it seriously - it was officially deemend as "non credible". I know there are some Register readers who take everything literally (I believe there's a medical diagnosis for such types), but nobody with even the vaguest bit of commoin sense would have taken this as a menace, and nor was it. No disruption occured, the arrest followed days later but what we get is the needless wasting of many tens of thousands of pounds of public money and a ruined life for now benefit to the public good at all save a growing sense of paranoia that we can get caught up in some mindless state machinery.

A slap on the wrist, told not to be so stupid and a shot of ambarrasement would have been plenty enough here, not ruining somebody's career. That's not to mention an abuse of the original intention of the legislation Paul Chambers was prosecuted under. That was intended to pursue people making intentional and vindictive uises of the telephone system to persecutre victims, not the accidental overhearing of a questionable joke between friends.

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Should this have ever reached the courts?

I know very little of the CPS, and what its official remit actually is. Is bringing a prosecution, purely to "make an example" of someone, a legitimate motivation for them?

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RE: Six Of One.....

"If he was saying it face-to-face we'd be able to see by his gait and demeanour that it was an absolute jocular comment"

Perhaps, but possibly not if he did it at the check in desk :-)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/shropshire/3417847.stm

"Or do we make an example of him?"

Seems like they already did that!

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Re: Exactly

"Couldn't agree more... Just when did the use of good old fashioned common sense end?"

About the time when the CPS decided that it's a good use of taxpayers money to prosecute the guy who wrote the message.

If (when?) he wins the appeal it'll just cost us more money. Way to go CPS.

I'll slap you if you disagree.

Joke alert, and I'd better make it clear that it's perfectly obvious that I won't slap you or anyone who disagrees, just in case some knob decides to prosecute.

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I'm tired ...

... of the "he's an idiot, it makes the job of the security forces harder, how dare he make a joke in these difficult times" arguments. In essence, what the people making these comments mean is that the fall of the Iron Curtain was wrong, because it went against the policies of the communist governments concerned, and no doubt made the jobs of the KGB, Stasi, etc much more difficult.

At most, a quick background check should have been done on Mr Chambers (and don't let's kid ourselves how difficult, or how much information could have been called upon), and this problem would never have occurred. Maybe marking his card so that he was pulled for special attention when he went for his flight would have been appropriate. The legal system has failed in its duty to protect the public - in this case, Mr Chambers - and I wish him and his team all success in getting this crap sorted out, and getting appropriate compensation for the appalling way he has been treated.

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Same old story though

He'll probably get off with on appeal with his shiny new barrister and would probably have got off at the start from this ridiculous prosecution if he could have afforded one at the start - legal representation is like everything else, you get what you pay for. This is why drunken footballers get off of drink-driving charges lightly and this fella got a slap. Got to love modern society.

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And then some...

"face-to-face we'd be able to see by his gait and demeanour that it was an absolute jocular comment - akin to stand-up." - The fact that it was posted on Twitter is surely evidence enough that it was a joke, a bit like Twitter itself, a digital communications joke of huge proportions.

"On the other hand, he's lost his job, a grand in fines and any credibility he may have had. Perhaps he's been punished enough." - Perhaps he's been punished far too much, as it currently stands he's lost his job and any further prospects of being employed, let alone in his chosen field that he was training in. An off-hand comment that he typed without thinking and now his life is in ruins and for what purpose, to satisfy the paranoid terror laws which so far have inconvenienced a lot of people in many ways and so far haven't actually proved worth it.

<icon would be a troll with a FAIL T-shirt on>

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He's also got Stephen Fry on-board, he offered to pay the fine.

Good luck to the guy. It was a bloody stupid ruling.

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WTF?

I never understood why...

... he lost his job? Can anyone explain? Did his job require a zero convictions record to allow him to function? If i remember correctly he lost the job during the trial before he was ever convicted. So how is that legal? Or is it that he lost his job for some othe reason which just happened to occur at the same time as the trial and he's using that as a way to get a bit of extra sympathy.

Not commenting on the other stuff (its been done to death already) but i find it hard to believe that anyone not working for the police or security services could legally be dismissed for getting this type of conviction. Can anyone explain what actually happened then?

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IANAL

but I suspect that a trainie lawer needs to have no convictions

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Didn't lose his job

He chose to resign as a financial supervisor in a car distribution company.

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That maybe true...

...but that just suggests to me that his employer had an ounce of good grace to let him jump before he was pushed, meaning they'd still be willing and able to give him a good reference, not that it would be worth much right now. I'm not entirely sure about accountants and all the echolons they go through but I'm pretty sure it is a "clean-record" field of work: you get convicted/prosecuted, especially so early on in your career, I doubt there's much chance of future success.

Off the topic here but that point also reminds me of the fact that if you get tested for H.I.V. for *any* reason (for example wanting to work in the United Arab Emirates) regardless of the outcome your life insurance provider will up your premiums and you could very well fall foul of all future mortgage decisions.

That sucks.

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Joke

Use the right Icon

He should have used the joke icon. Then he'd be in the clear. What'd he use, the grenade? Silly fool...

Seriously, the punishment does not fit the crime in this case. He didn't send the threat to the airport, the police, an airline, or any other logical threat recipient. The threat was at most vague and (IMHO) stupidly humorous. He made no attempt to prepare to carry out any part of the threat, he didn't repeat the threat either. He's young and (I'm guessing here) socially active.

He should have been let off with a warning and a slap on the wrist.

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Not happening...

"He should have been let off with a warning and a slap on the wrist."

No, that only happens if you're a *real* criminal.

Fail. Because not only has the spirit of the law, but so has several people's sense of humour.

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No, that only happens if you're a *real* criminal......

Damn right!

A drunken thug punched out my (retired and disabled) wife and several other people while on bail (bail!) after a serious assault that had left a man in intensive care. At the time he had over 100 offences on record, many violent, going back over a decade. The next morning, his bail was renewed (!!!!!!!). In court weeks, with by then another 2 assaults under his belt, he changed his plea to guilty at the very last minute and walked - smirking - from court with a few months community service. The police had to escort him from court to prevent violence from victims and witnesses.

Now a guy - idiot admittedly - has his life turned upside down because of a daft IM.

The justice system in this country is a f...ing joke !!

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Anonymous Coward

The £43,733.77 question...

What does Stephen Fry think?

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a sad case of CPS jobsworth

I believe this definitely had a chilling effect on free speech^Wranting. Yes, it was stupid to say and post such a thing, but punishing the person who did it was cruel; the punishment should at most have been to have their twitter account suspended/deleted or something.

If the appeal is lost, then it's time to blow the courts up. Wait, only joking, really! See?

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Rob
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Joke

I'm not so sure...

... you have me worried now, I'm reporting you to the moderatrix and the police, see you in court (hopefully for you it won't be the one you planted the explosives in).

<Law Enforcement officers and CPS jobsworth twats, please see icon>

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Re: a sad case of CPS jobsworth

The CPS use several measures to decide if pursuing a case is appropriate, the ones relevant to this case are (but not restricted to, nor in any particular order);

1. Is there enough evidence?

2. Is it in the public interest to prosecute?

Number 1 is a no brainer, no matter how picky your are or how much you disagree with the law or in fact his intentions, he did commit an offence, we took the wheels of a mates car at work once for a laugh, technically theft (and to be fair he still doesn't find it funny), and I'm sure there's things that most people can think of when they committed "crimes" like copying their new CD to their iPod, sharing a spliff, doing 80 on the motorway etc. The point is the CPS were made aware and had to decide if there was evidence of a crime (which there was).

Number 2 is very fuzzy, given that he didn't get a slap on the wrists at first contact and it became public because it was passed to the CPS this was a precident in the making, so they either had to say "it's OK to do this", or "this is not acceptable", making it "OK" could open the door for people to cross the line and claim the same "just joking" defence, I suspect that they considered it in the public interest to pursue this to (hopefully) stop this sort of thing disruping air travel in the future after all the legal system should be about prevention not punishment.

Kind of inevitable, £1k fine, non custodial? punishment probably as light as they could be without being seen to let him get away with it, but if deterrent was the point, would you think twice now?

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Evidence for what?

Whilst it was obvious he posted it so there was evidence, the charge the suppressive fascists did him via was completely inappropriate.

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Would think twice

"Kind of inevitable, £1k fine, non custodial? punishment probably as light as they could be without being seen to let him get away with it, but if deterrent was the point, would you think twice now?"

Yes. And that's the point. If the government wants to change our behaviour so that we become humourless drones who can only function for the good of the state, then this ruling makes sense. Otherwise, not so much.

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Reasonable?

I'm a reasonable person (I checked) and I found the message menacing. So I can say it's a reasonably menacing message.

On the other hand, I agree with LuMan. While some might find the message menacing, the guy has already been punished quite a bit.

And, as the Blessed Ron White says, you can't fix stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Seriously?

You find that message menacing? Really? I assume you are writing from a secure bunker deep beneath the surface of some remote island since if you are manaced by that obvious sardonicism you are obviously a paranoid lunatic.

I am drunk (hey...friday) and I can still see this case is and always was utterly absurd. Anyone who thinks otherwise must have voted Stalin...err...I mean Labour.

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Assume?

You can assume whatever you like, tic.

I don't need to assume you're a drunk ass. I read your post and you told me you're drunk.

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Reasonable?

If you are reasonable, then I must be un-reasonable 'cos I thought of it as a joke and could not see how anyone could see otherwise. Hmmm.

As a reasonable man, can I ask your opinion about what I should do. He was complaining about the parking ticket he got. He used the words 'Those traffic wardens. Should be strung up all of them' . I I did not pay any attention but I now realise I was being unreasonable and should have taken him seriously. Should I report him for offering violence.......

or should I not be a tit .

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Anonymous Coward

just a thought.....

While I agree the CPS have taken this a little to far, had this guy been unstable and carried out the threat the comments here and all the twitter users would be painting the opposite picture of the prosecution services.......

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Happy

If "ifs and ands" -

- were pots and pans, there'd be nae work for tinkers.

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Paris Hilton

I think he's an idiot

And my first reaction when the story originally broke was 'serves him right'. He wasted Police time (baring in mind the Airport Personnel are legally required to pass the info on, whether considered credible or not) and made a rather stupid and puerile joke.

But, to lose his Job, get fined a grand and get a criminal record does seem a little harsh. What they should have done, is billed him for the cost of whatever investigation was needed to confirm/deny the threat (and due diligence should be exercised in more cases - Imagine the Daily Mail Crowd if this had been real, and the Police ignored it as 'not credible')

He may actually win the appeal, AFAIK whether a message is menacing is partially judged on the 'reasonable person' test (I may be wrong). I.e. Would a reasonable person consider the message menacing/threatening? However, the fact it is in text (as mentioned before, no demeanour or gait to give the joke away) the judgement will simply be based on the words themselves. The final section is pretty threatening if taken on its own (which it shouldn't be)

So to summarise;

He's a cock

His Punishment seems unduly harsh, though there's no reason the taxpayer should have to pay for the fallout from his 'joke'

He has half a chance of overturning the conviction

And no, this doesn't equate to thought crime. Had he joked about it with mates in the pub, he'd not be in the same position. It's because he published it that he found himself in the sh*t (and to be fair, he did change his plea to guilty - which may work against him to some extent, even if it was to try and mitigate the punishment a bit)

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: I think he's an idiot

Frankly I think there's a good chance that everyone here - myself included - has said something on the internet at some point that could have been interpreted as threatening to at least one other person, and it would only have taken one hysteric or paranoiac to take umbrage and that would have been us fucked. And it still could be. So a little humility and there-but-for-the-grace-of is in order.

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Freedom Of Speech...

...does not give one the right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre, nor, these days, "Bomb!" in an airport.

It's bad enough that we have actual terrorists performing evil deeds, adding noise of this nature to the channel is NOT helping.

A fine equal to the cost of a nice TV does not seem excessive.

Interesting that human females are hard wired to be attracted to the rebel/outlaw. Preserving that genotype has saved the race, or at least subsets, many a time.

Beer is better than bombs.

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@Moderatrix

Fair point, though your tone implies I may have done so recently ;-)

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RE: I think he's an idiot

Well, at least you started to see sense once you actually did think about it. But why is he a cock though?

If he was posting a message that was actaully a threat then I would agree, but as far as he was concerned he was just tweeting some horsecrap comment that amounted to nothing.

That doens't make him a "cock" or an idiot it makes him a normal level minded person that didn't think that his harmless joke would ever be seen by the "authorities" let alone be taken seriously by them.

And there is a reason for that, it's because the authorities shouldn't have seen it and they certainly shouldn't have taken it seriously, it doesn't take more than a few seconds of thought to realise it's not a genuine threat.

No no, what they are doing is making an example, to show the likes of you and me what will happen if we cross the line with our general day to day communications. It's thought control.

These people that are protecting us from this massive terrorist threat, those that monitor our communications and drag peopele through the courts for speaking out of line. They have their own little empires to build up and don't delude yourself that they care about the liberty of you or me.

"And no, this doesn't equate to thought crime."

Thought crime!?!?!?!

What fucking country are you from? North Korea?

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re: re: i think he's an idiot

I think he's a cock for pleading guilty (had it the wrong way round earlier, pled guilty then changed to not guilty so can't have been to reduce punishment, my bad) its probably made life harder for him

The thought crime comment was a reference to comments on previous stories labelling it as such.

Given that magistrates are unpaid, untrained volunteers (district magistrates excluded) I'd argue that the magistrate wasn't qualified to make a decision on an untested point of law such as the one central to this case. At least the ruling was in a lower court so doesn't set a precedent for future cases.

When his appeal goes above crown court (it'll be heard there first as a matter of procedure) any ruling will though!

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Anonymous Coward

But

<p>Joking &quot;bomb&quot; on Twitter is <i>not</i> the same as shouting it in an airport, is it? And what in the Moderatrix's post made you think she is attracted to him? Are you psychic or something?</p>

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Boffin

@Disco-Legend-Zeke

"[Freedom of speech]does not give one the right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre,". That is your opinion (well, actually, it isn't - lots of other people have said the same previously), and it is wrong. Once again, it depends on context: what if there actually is a fire, for instance? Or, maybe more germanely, what if the script calls for one of the actors to shout it (e.g. "Ready, aim, fire")? Or, taking it a step further, if the script calls for the cast to get the audience to shout it (as in some strange pantomime, in lieu of "He's behind you"). Or, during the interval, I might say to my wife "We might have to put the fire on when we get home", which in a crowded theatre bar might require to raise my voice to a near shout.

Equally, use of the word "bomb" - suppose I were in an airport and was talking about my plans to go Germany, which might include a "bomb around the Nurburgring" (i.e going for some high speed lappage of the iconic circuit), or going to Dresden to see how well they have repaired the bomb-damage from WW2.

What about "I'm going to shoot to the loo" before the gates open ....

Honestly, I'm not stretching use of the language at all - they are all feasible. I would not expect anyone to be charged for anything in any of these situations, because context is all. (Guess who has taught this to law students for some time??)

The case here is twofold: whether the use of the printed word alters the context, and, completely separately, whether the statute that Mr Chambers was convicted under is an appropriate use of that statute. The context issue goes only to the initial investigation and decision to prosecute, the second to the operation of the law by a bunch of clueless magistrates. You can tell from my previous posts on this that I do not believe that the context made this credible, and that my opinion of Doncaster magistrates (a bunch of people drawn from a town not a million miles from me) is that they really need to go away and learn some law, because they truly misunderstood what the Act meant.

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Re: shouting "Bomb!" in an airport

He didn't. He tweeted it. If you are having trouble distinguishing the two, it's because you've had too much beer.

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Anonymous Coward

When sociaty...

.. has become paranoid and repressive the only thing to do is to submit. Bow your head down and be silent. After all they know what is best for you.

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Joke

"who he has since begun dating"

They say that the rogues always get the ladies.

A joke because that's what the prosecution and subsequent conviction were: the guy clearly isn't a genuine rogue at all.

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Serious Threat?

It is obvious that the authorities didn't view this guy as a real threat.

The facts are he was arrested by anti-terror police at his office a week later and not during some hasty dawn raid with armed officers.

I just think he has been made an example of. A profitable set up, to be used as a fear inducing exemplar to fund the burgeoning security industry.

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Give over, you nonce

Airport jobsworths are "legally required" to rat him out because they stumbled across his post, are they? [citation needed]

There's nothing stupid about the joke - humour is toothless without topicality or edginess - only about the massive screaming over-reaction to it, which is admittedly far funnier - although with a nasty punchline.

He was only prosecuted because there are Plod and CPS out there who don't have real jobs, and instead need to find The Terrorists under every bed to justify their existence.

The magistrates who ruled on this are also in need of a good dose of perspective, rather than buying into the delusion that we need to destroy freedom in order to save it.

The chap's a victim, not a criminal.

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FAIL

Read the previous articles

If you read the previous articles, you will find the Airport Guy confirming that he was required to hand over the info - regardless of it being a credible threat.

OK it may be an airport policy rather than an actual statute but the effect is the same.

I completely agree re: the magistrate

Whilst I prefer edgy jokes, humour doesn't really require either topicality or edginess. It's a stupid joke in that it was a fairly stupid thing to post, I've got in trouble plenty for misuse of sarcasm (not to this level obviously) so I do appreciate his situation to some extent.

As adults, we are supposed to be able to tell when it may be inappropriate to say/do something. Joking about blowing up airports when you know that the state is (rightly or wrongly) paranoid about terrorists does qualify as stupid in my books. Perhaps you have lower standards?

Technically, he is a criminal (he was convicted), but if you're arguing that pushing for conviction was a step too far, you have my agreement

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Legal/Policy

A quick dig shows it's an offence not to report knowledge or suspicion of terrorist financing so one would assume the same applies to threat to a location.

I can tell you that the Osman case indirectly imposes a requirement to investigate all threats (reasonable steps must be taken to prevent possible/suspected threats to life - an investigation to confirm the credibility of the threat is both is reasonable and necessary, no?) so thats public funds wasted as a result of Mr Chambers. Why should the taxpayer pay?

The cost of the prosecution was caused by the CPS, so I'm not saying he should pay for that.

I've not got time to dig further though, feel free

opsi.gov.uk should have it

The Osman stuff came from Policy issued to Plod in NI - http://www.psni.police.uk/policy_directive_1608_threats_to_an_individual_and_location.pdf

Have fun if you've the time!

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Pint

Bravo, Rogerborg!!!

Well said - have a beer on me!

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I wonder

I had thought the law was regarding sent messages... if he had sent this message to the airport, then I could see how they would take it the wrong way.

But to twitter? Isn't he basically talking to himself? He didn't "send" it to anyone.

Or am I wrong?

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