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back to article UK High Court split over Twitter airport bomb joke

A man who was convicted of posting a tasteless joke on Twitter about blowing up a UK airport is to have his case heard again. According to report today from New Statesman legal scribe David Allen Green – who is also representing Paul Chambers in the appeal – two judges in the Divisional Court of the High Court had failed agree …

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Sir

I nearly made a joke at an airport the other day when I was having my hair-gel taken off me because it was 150ml (you are only allowed 100ml).

I was tempted to ask 'how can I blow the plane up now that you've taken my hair-gel away?'

Of course, I realise that we live in a near state of permanent hysteria and a sense of humour is more lethal than cyanide, so I kept my mouth shut and decided to take the train next time.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Sir

"I was tempted to ask 'how can I blow the plane up now that you've taken my hair-gel away?'"

Now sir you're being unfair. It is a well-known fact that terrorists are too stupid to decant their hair gel into two seperate <100ml containe... hang on, someone at the door. BRB...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sir

Very dangerous territory (especially in the US) .... I know of someone who when randomly selected for extra security search in New York made the mistake while handing over mobile phone saying "I better turn this off in case it makes the plane crash" (this was at the time when were lots of articles on whether mobiles in planes would interfer with guidance systems etc). They were immediately marched to a a secure room, had baggage pulled from plane and person accompanying them was told that they had made a direct threat to the safety of the plane. After further grilling they were allowed to leave but were told that it up to the pilot of the next plane whether to accept them on and that Heathrow might not allow the plane to land with them on board. Fortunately the plane was British Airways and when the pilot came in to "interview" them he immediately said it was blindingly obvious that there wasn't any threat and that there wouldn't be any further problems!

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WTF?

Re: Sir

I once wore a T-shirt by Stussy, which has a picture of a gun on it, which morphs into a trumpet with the word "Peace" being blown out of it..

I was stopped at Heathrow and told that I cannot wear this t-shirt on to my flight... I had to ask for the "senior" security person to come along and explain to the other security bod that there was no issue with me wearing this t-shirt....

If they'd made me take it off, I wonder if I'd have been done for indecent exposure (of my moobs!)

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Anonymous Coward

They need a judge of under 50 years old

to understand that social networking is like having a chat with mates in the pub.

Unfortunately they don't exist.

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WTF?

Re: Sir

I recall someone being told to change their tshirt which had a picture of Optimus Prime on, as he was holding a gun.

In 2000 I was asked was I carrying any weapons and informed the person asking me that the sealed parcel (Xmas present) I was carrying had two small lumps of plastic that were shaped as a pistol and a shotgun. (Collectors Edition Witchblade model for the other half) They were about 1cm, and 1 inch in length respectively. This muppet actually went off and asked their supervisor if it was ok. I informed the Supervisor that A) I was not intending on opening the package on the plane as it was a gift wrapped present, and B) If I held up a lump of plastic that was 1 cm long between my thumb and forefinger and tried to hold up the plane I'd be royally laughed at !!

Of course this was all 9 months before 9/11. If I'd tried it after 9/11 it would have been rubber glove up the bum time for me !!!

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Mushroom

Re: Sir

I was flying to Prague recently and someone who didn't understand the liquid rules had a bottle of water taken off them by a rather rude lady.

She took it and angrily threw (and I mean threw) it into the bin next to the line. I was thinking of saying good thing it’s not bloody explosive or we'd all be screwed. Then I remembered where I was.

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Stop

Re: "social networking is like having a chat with mates in the pub"

Except it isn't, because the exact minutiae of your pub conversations are not recorded verbatim and published permanently for anyone in the world to call up with a simple web search.

So really we need the morons who use social networking to understand the implications of what they are doing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "social networking is like having a chat with mates in the pub"

"Except it isn't, because the exact minutiae of your pub conversations are not recorded verbatim and published permanently for anyone in the world to call up with a simple web search."

Just wait till "Google BarTalk (beta)" arrives!

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Shocking

Surely these judges should be detained for supporting terrorism ?

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WTF?

Split?

How can they be split on something so obvious?

Judge 1: I mean, he clearly threatened to blow the airport sky high, and if it hadn't been for the police interception of that nefarious Tweeter terrorist network on which he was bragging about the plot he would have gotten away with it too...

Judge 2: Twitter actually...

Judge 1: Twitter, tweeter, whatever. Still, the interception of the criminal netw...

Judge 2: Well actually it's a public website. My son uses it.

Judge 1: Public? But I read those awful rioters were all on it... well, OK, so he was a criminal too stupid to realise that he was exposing his plot to the wor...

Judge 2: It's quite a famous public website to be fair.

Judge 1: So you're telling me everyone *knows* Twitter is public? A likely story! I'll bet it *is* a criminal network hiding in plain sight! And your son is probably a terrorist too.

Judge 2: You sir are a buffoon.

Judge 1: You sir are an apologist scoundrel.

(and so on)

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Re: Split?

How long before they start saying "That's you, that is"?

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Def
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Joke

"But the hardest thing has been the waiting..."

Perhaps he should threaten to blow the judges sky high if they don't hurry up and make a decision.

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Black Helicopters

Re: "But the hardest thing has been the waiting..."

Def, you are being arrested for making a terrorist threat in a public place. Please cooperate with the men in the black helicopter.

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Seriously

Arrested for making a joke? The person(s) who reported it, the police officer(s) who made the arrest, the lawyer(s) who let it get that far, the judge(s) who are messing about in court should all be arrested for wasting time.

On just one news website there are 3 stories of serious child abuse, a few murders, rape, robbery and a whole list of things that have all been ongoing for years without being noticed.

My note to the above complainers. Apply your efforts to greater things you idiotic losers.

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Re: Seriously

That's the legal point.

The airport didn't take the threat seriously, there was no evacuation, there was no security response. He was later arrested for making a credible terrorist threat and he argued that if nobody took it seriously then it couldn't have been credible.

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FAIL

Re: Seriously

Unfortunately, the right to free speech does not include the right to shout "FIRE" in a crowed theater.

3 lashes of the birch for being a dumb twat, 10 lashes of the birch for the even dumber twats who brought it to court.

This in a country that is quite happy to see it's own citizens extradited to 'merkin-land but can't send Abu Qatada back to Jordan.

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Re: Seriously

I agree entirely with that sentence, for good measure I move that it be carried out by Anne Widdecombe.

Alternatively I'd support a sentence requiring him to tweet "I am a blockhead, don't make stupid tweets like me." every day for a thousand years. Or once.

What I don't support is still more clogging up of our justice system trying to decide on suitable punishments for being a twit.

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Re: Seriously

Analogy is interesting but flawed.

Calling Fire in a theatre is likely to cause a stampede and a potential for actually bodily harm.

Saying "I'm gonna blow that stupid airport sky high" in the context of being pissed off is just a figure of speech. I don't even think he was thoughtless in a particularly bad way. He was just using a colourful expression, perhaps in exchange for a more offensive expletive... (Since as noted above, Twitter is a well known and public forum).

Sometimes the letter of the law is not in tune with the spirit of the law.

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Re: Seriously

If the shouting of "fire" can cause harm then I'd suggest that the fault is the theatre's not the yeller. The theatre can ban him, or possibly sue him, but his right to free speech should trump the inconvenience, and minuscule risk of harm, caused to other patrons and the theatre owner.

When one quotes this bogus ruling one should be aware of what it was in relation to - it was to ban anti-draft flyers in WW1 and had nothing to do with theatres at all. And that awful ruling was, it should be noted, later overturned by Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969.

However, since there was no response and no danger of a response, and no danger of any harm (except to his front door) if there was a response then I really don't see either how the analogy stands up or how he's done anything wrong.

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Unhappy

@Grubby

You can't be serious!

Real criminals are DANGEROUS. Law enforcers might get hurt!

Best they stick to the made-up variety.

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Re: Seriously

Quote: Calling Fire in a theatre is likely to cause a stampede and a potential for actually bodily harm. Saying "I'm gonna blow that stupid airport sky high" in the context of being pissed off is just a figure of speech.

Well, if the airport took it seriously, and evacuated... would that not have a potential for the same injuries?

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Re: Seriously

@MrZoolook:

That would have required them to take it seriously. Which, you know, they didn't. They took the eminently sensible approach of dismissing it as a silly comment in terms of airport operation (ie remained open and carried on operating as normal), yet tried to pull a DoubleThink when reporting it and claiming that it was a serious threat, etc.

Mentally-deficient thinking all the way, frankly - because if they think this is any use in terms of deterring those with actual intent, they're being silly. In the same way that a credible threat who seriously wants to harm the USA (or whatever other country you want to name) *wont* be the moron lining up in a turban & flowing pyjamas with a long beard and the "ISLAM 4 LIFE YO" t-shirt.

If the airport want to try the "it was a credible threat" defence I look forward to reaping the ancillary benefits - specifically, access to the time machine they'll need to build in order to go back to the original incident so that they can change their response and act like they cared.

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Re: Seriously

As I've posted before, there are several reasons why someone might shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre, not excluding that it is part of the script.

I would definitely say, these days, that without the sound of a fire alarm, no-one would pay the slightest attention to someone shouting "Fire" in any crowded place. In most case, it requires both the alarm and people saying "This is not a drill, please make your way to the exits in an orderly fashion" before anyone will give up whatever it is they are doing. This elderly, and weak, analogy fails these days because of that. In essence, it now works to Paul Chambers' benefit, since the mere shouting is no good without further credible evidence, of which this case had none.

The judiciary has finally produced one sensible judge who is willing to say "Hold on a minute - does this make any sense?" (which is what the magistrates should have done: it's a shame that the police and the CPS didn't). I know there are more of them, and I fervently hope that s/he is allocated to the re-hearing.

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Re: Seriously

Only he didn't shout anything in a crowded anywhere, did he? Making your point rather, well, lacking in point really.

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Re: Seriously

Not really, since he said they had "a week and a bit" - I think an airport can be safely evacuated in eight days...

Seriously, read about the case.

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Re: Seriously

Wow! I’m suppressed at the number of people that don’t actually understand the concept of what freedom of speech actually is. The phrase about shouting fire comes form the case Schenck v. United State, look it up in Wikipedia if you want.

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent

If Paul Chambers had tweeted twatted that the airport was a dump, or that his employers were idiots then that could be construed as expressing an opinion.

However scrubber does raise an interesting point, if since there was no response and no danger of a response, and no danger of any harm, where do you draw the line?

For example if you saw an anonymous tweet saying “I’m going to rape somebody’s sister tonight” would you be worried, would you respond? Is there any danger of harm? There might be if the tweeter were a mentally disturbed person with a history of sexual violence.

I think the golden rule should be if you can’t say something sensible, don’t say anything at all. There is no such thing as privacy on the internet

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Re: Seriously

In support of your point, I've been in Gatwick airport when a fire alarm went off accompanied by a recorded voice instructing people to follow the fire exit signs. I was in a bit of a quandary because I've been trained never to gather your possessions together in a fire evacuation and never to abandon anything in an airport; but after thinking about it briefly I picked up my bag and jacket and headed for a fire exit. None of the couple of hundred other people I could see did anything other than stand still and look at each other blankly.

Of course, when I followed the fire exit sign down to a gate, the person on the gate didn't know anything about a fire alarm going off. It was probably just a system malfunction, although I never found out for sure.

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If you can be jailed for joking

Then the terrorists have already won.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't someone get kicked out of their USA holiday for a twitter joke as well.

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Coat

decision about the so-called "Twitter Joke Trial".

Well at least they have their terminology correct - it certainly is a joke trial.

Mine the one with a copy of "English Criminal Law for Dumb Shits" sticking out the pocket!

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Joke

Note to self

Wen planning international bombing campaign, don't use twitter.

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Advice for his legal team

Point out this recent news story

QUOTE

MP's 'flippant' Twitter outburst at train passenger

A Labour MP has branded a fellow train passenger a "lager drinking oaf" and suggested he should "have been killed before he could breed".

Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East since 2005, made the comments on the micro-blogging website Twitter.

The man, she said, was playing techno music "out loud" and wearing a T-shirt with an obscene message on it.

Ms McCarthy, Labour's former social media tsar, later said the breeding comments were "obviously flippant".

It is not clear from the MP's tweets where the encounter took place.

She wrote: "Oaf on train drinking lager and playing techno music out loud. Everyone being very British about it and not complaining."

She then described how he was wearing a T-shirt with an offensive message about his sexual prowess, adding: "Should have killed him when we had the chance before he could breed."

In a follow-up tweet, she said her previous comments were "obviously flippant in the context of him boasting about his (unlikely) sexual prowess".

In 2009, Ms McCarthy was appointed Labour's new media campaign co-ordinator - or social media 'tsar' - after being named as the most influential MP on Twitter.

But she was forced to apologise and received a police caution after she revealed the details of a sample of postal votes on Twitter in the run-up to the 2010 election.

She currently has more than 13,000 followers on the micro-blogging website.

Ms McCarthy, first elected to Parliament in 2005, is a spokesman on foreign affairs for the opposition.

ENDQUOTE

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Re: Advice for his legal team

Make that more than 13001 as of now... She sounds like she's just saying what we're all thinking.... For fuck's sake, who else feels it's a topsy-turvy world we live in when a politician of all people CAN'T say what's actually on her mind!!! GRRR....

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Big Brother

Re: Advice for his legal team

Or ask them when Francis Maude (a government minister) is going to be arrested and charged for inciting the entire UK road using public to break the law, via multi-national media outlet based in England & Wales.

Or is there a double standard in English law!

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Re: Advice for his legal team

Ah but you're making the classic mistake of expecting the law to apply in the same way to a politician and a prole. If a politician breaks the law it's simply because they mis-interpreted the law. If a prole breaks the same law it's because they're a criminal.

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Re: Advice for his legal team

I have actually written to Ed Miliband (my MP) asking if, in light of the fact this law is so insidious that even his own "Social media Tsar" can fall afoul of it, it might be time for the opposition to actually start opposing something...

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Anonymous Coward

Everybody sing!

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Bunch of jobsworth ****s (*)

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Don't like jokey stunts

Tolerated by the gullible, held in contempt by those with a clue... (**)

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood!

(*) Yes, I'm sorry, "twits" doesn't rhyme with "stunts" :-/

(**) Doesn't scan, I don't care :-P

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Re: Everybody sing!

@AC

Could always use "twunts" instead of your current choice. Not *quite* obscene (in the same way that "quim" isn't entirely obscene because lots of folks don't know what it means).

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Facepalm

Re: Everybody sing!

Had a managing director many moons ago who kept pronouncing the name of the Qume daisywheel printers (there, that dates me!) 'quim'. Nobody had the heart (or nerve) to tell him...

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Optional

He knew!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Everybody sing!

I had a manager who used to pronounced variables ending in CNT (as in Count) without the 'o'..... No-one had the heart to point out the problem....

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Re: Everybody sing!

After watching Charlie Brooker on Have I Got A Bit More News For You last Sunday (hosted by William Shatner!!), you could use 'funt'...

If you haven't watched the funniest HIGABMNFY ever then head over to the BBC iPlayer and watch. Those outside the UK 'might' find some joy in using *cough* iPlayer+ and searching for the above, (Season 43, Episode 7) .

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Re: Everybody sing!

lol...

I've had code reviews by a technical lead who insisted I changed all my "intcnt" and "lngcnt" variable names because I was swearing...

Hi Kelvin, if you read this!

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Mushroom

Grr

If these muppet judge types don't get their asses in gear I'm gonna blow up the court house.

*This is a joke, I don't know which court house or how to carry out an explosion (aside from fireworks) Sure it's not a big clever funny joke, but none the less it's a joke.

I doubt they read El Reg but just in case they do I would like to point out that this is a joke about a joke ....oh you get the message!

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Re: Grr

I think we should lock you up in case its a double bluff.

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Joke

Re: Grr

I don't know ......... how to carry out an explosion (aside from fireworks)

Of course you do, you have the Internet. Go to a search engine and type "Howto make a bomb from fried frogs" or something more pertinent!

<tangent>I used to enjoy making custard powder explode as a kid, and sparkler 'bombs' are awesome. <asscovering>Of course, I'd never dream of unleashing one anywhere that there might be people! </asscovering></tangent>

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Coffee/keyboard

FFS!

You could take a machine gun to these humourless petty bastards.

Oh shit, was that incitement?

It really takes three high court judges to work out if the guy was a loonie threat or just venting?Morons. Pathetic. There is no icon disparaging enough.

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Re: FFS!

No they all agree he was just venting, they are arguing over whether someone should be punished (further) for posting what 'could be' deemed to be a threatening message over a public communications network.

The fact that it was dismissed by the airport security staff and no alert was raised is supposed to be taken into account by the judges... but most of them have still decided it falls on the wrong side of the law.

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Childcatcher

Living dangerously

I'm amazed he still has a Twitter account.

Free speech and all that but you wouldn't think he'd risk it again.

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