back to article Twitter bomb hoax man changes plea

A UK man accused of posting a Twitter update that was taken as a threat to blow Doncaster airport "sky high" is to face trial, and has changed his plea to not guilty. Paul Chambers, 26, allegedly posted the contentious update on 6 January, after a run of bad weather forced the Yorkshire airport to close a week before he was …

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  1. irish donkey
    WTF?

    I wonder could Tony Blair...........

    be charged with the same thing. After all he did say that Saddam was going to kill us all in 45 mins.

    funny how he can say opps sorry its all a mistake where as little people get nailed to the wall for it.

    1. Bassey

      Daily Fail

      You see, that's what happens when you get your "news" from the Daily Mail/Sunday Sport. I believe the report (note - NOT authored by Blair, just prefaced) stated Saddam had weapons of Mass Destruction that could be deployed within 45mins. However, there was never any suggestion they were mounted on ICBM's that might reach Blighty. The threat was to the middle east - not the UK.

      So, other than the source AND the story, your "facts" were spot on. Point well made.

      1. peter 45
        Grenade

        Facts....with references

        ".... existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes....."

        "....Iraq's development of weapons with a range of more than 1,000 km...."

        "Because there is no way this man, in this region above all regions, could begin a conflict using such weapons and the consequences not engulf the whole world, including this country."

        Tony Blair - Reference House of Commons debates, 24 September 2002, 11:30 am.

        What he also said was "....Afghanistan is a country now freed from the Taliban....". Funny that!

      2. LinkOfHyrule
        Thumb Down

        You see, that's what happens when

        You see, that's what happens when comentards have a sense of humour failure. I believe the OP was not basing his comments on fact but a common meme which is used by the mainstream media not just the Daily Fail and the Sunday Sport. Give the guy (or guyess) a break, I'm sure he was joking or being satirical.

        So, other than humour AND common sense, your "comment" was spot on. Point well made. Not.

        1. peter 45
          Heart

          Humour in postings - not allowed!

          Don't be so hard on him. After all, he is not the first to singularly fail to spot the humour in a post.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Puzzling

    It appears (from the AP report at least) that he is now denying sending the message. I could understand him changing his plea to not guilty on the grounds that the tweet did not constitute a threatening message, but how can he expect to be taken seriously in denying something he had previously admitted?

    If he's going for the old favourite "somebody hacked my twitter account to send a single message" plea, then it would only be credible had he not previously admitted to sending the message. Entering a plea of not guilty could well mean that the bench decide that he needs to be referred for a jury trial, so maybe it's some sort of delaying tactic.

  3. AlistairJ
    FAIL

    A applaud this man's stance

    Against heavy handed and to be quite frank, moronic policing.

    I expect this important testcase will establish whether posting something on Tw?tter is considered "sending" under the terms of the charge concerned. And well done Doncaster Airport for the complete sense of humour failure.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Could just be a burden of proof thing?

      Again only really if he hadn't previously admitted to sending the message, he could just be pleading not guilty to make the point that the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt. Does anyone have any idea whether it's a strict liability offence? I wouldn't be surprised if so, but if not then maybe he could also be making the point that nobody could reasonably interpret what he did as intending to be an actual threat?

    2. Sophira

      He's not denying the tweets!

      He's not denying writing the tweet itself. A few tweets spotted in response to this very article:

      http://twitter.com/crazycolours/status/10527320757

      http://twitter.com/pauljchambers/status/10527586707

    3. /dev/me

      It's might've been a Koan

      Well, it depends really.

      He might be able to say, that in hindsight he thinks he is not guilty of doing what he was accused off.

      Example, Alice tweets: 'they set us up the bomb'. Now Bob thinks Alice is setting up a bomb. He asks Alice, did you tweet that message and Alice says 'yes'.

      Now Alice is in jail, being questioned for the twentieth time today, and it strikes her that even though indeed she has tweeted that message, never did she mean she's gonna plant a bomb to blow stuff up.

      I expect these things to be more about words than about anything else.

      Apropos: the wind blows at the airfield, the planes fly sky-high... I'd say he just had to skip a few syllables to write a nifty little Koan. Then it's ye olde 'it was Art' defense.

  4. Paul 25
    FAIL

    Defense fund?

    Does this guy have a defence fund we can donate to?

    This whole case has been a ludicrous waste of time.

    In fact, can you prosecute the police for wasting their own time?

    1. Michael Maguire 1

      Facebook support group

      http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=265300406002

  5. Titus Aduxass
    Thumb Up

    Balls

    I'm glad he's got the balls to plead not guilty. And I hope this case gets thrown out (as it should) and therefore set some sort of common-sense precedent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Balls

      Common sense when it comes to an alleged terrorist threat? That'll be the day!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No...

      ... as so often in this country these days, the minor judiciary will do as they're damn well told. He'll be 'made an example of', and - assuming he can find the funds - probably end up in Appeal.

      More than anybody's jobsworth to do otherwise...

  6. Bruce MacDonald

    The legal angle ...

    as the old saying goes, I'm not a lawyer, but ... here's someone who is, and has thought about it:

    http://www.thelawyer.com/the-twitter-%E2%80%9Cbomb-hoax%E2%80%9D-case-worse-than-we-thought?/1003651.article

    1. OldBiddie

      Disturbing indeed

      As per title.

  7. David 79

    Re: Puzzling

    All we know is that he's pleading not guilty to the charge - that could mean admitting he sent the tweet but arguing that it wasn't "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character."

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @courts

    The courts better let him off or I'm gonna blow them all sky high.

    1. ratfox Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Pushing our luck, aren't we?

      Better call your lawyer now, the choppers are closing in...

  9. Gav
    Thumb Down

    Idiots all round

    The accused is an idiot. And so is the law for prosecuting him.

  10. adam.c

    Is the guy an idiot - almost certainly by anyones definition.

    But as a counter argument to the people saying it's a waste of police time and the case should be thrown out.

    1) It's his choice to plead not guilty, prolonging the case and wasting court time and money, to an incident which he previously admitted to.

    2) If you're one of the people who has their trip/holiday b*ggered up because of a need to investigate a suspicious parcel (idiot forgot luggage) or verify a suspected threat (idiot makes bomb related comment) - I suspect you may not be so charitable and forgiving.

    3) It's easier to find a needle in a haystack, if you cut down on the idiots tipping more straw on top - and comments like this persons are adding to the pile.

    I do think jail time is probably not the best sentence for him - esp if it's suspended (which negates the deterent in my opinion) - but a hefty fine would concentrate his mind wonderfully

    He could do the right thing, admit he was an idiot, plead mercy and walk away from it with a valuable lesson for the future about the consequences of being a kn*b

  11. theSensibleGeek

    The real question...

    ...is "what constitutes public vs private communication?"

    Certainly, my highly visited website about the Beijing Tea Market would be considered public if I posted a "threatening message" there, but what about my family genealogy website? It's equally open to the public, but is visited less, which could open up a slippery slope of determining at what traffic level a "private" website becomes "public".

    How about facebook and twitter, where the user can control the visibility of what they write? Surely, if my privacy settings only allow my friends and family to see my comments, then that should be considered private communication, in my opinion, but I'll bet the government would disagree.

    If the government can decide what is public vs private arbitrarily, then what's to stop them from deciding that your phone call to your friend down the street is no longer private? What's to stop them from saying that your pillow talk with your spouse is no longer private? Clearly, what I say to my wife in our bed is no business of the government, but at what point does their right to classify our communications as public or private stop?

    I hope this case addresses some of these issues, though I'm sure that ultimately it will just result, as it always does, with the little guy bending over as we slowly erode our freedoms.

    Of course, there's always that question of whether people that are going to blow up airports warn them first...but that's just crazy talk...

    1. LinkOfHyrule

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      "1) It's his choice to plead not guilty, prolonging the case and wasting court time and money, to an incident which he previously admitted to."

      So by pleading not guilty, you think he's deliberately wasting court time and money? It's possible he could be though it's more likely he was under pressure and did not have adequate legal advice at the time of his arrest. And now since then, has been advised to change his plea.

      There's many reasons why he may of changed his plea, not all of them bogus. I think you should re-evaluate your idea that someone pleading not guilty means they only want to waste time.

    2. Bruce MacDonald
      Grenade

      Idiot?

      What's he an idiot for? He didn't genuinely threaten anyone. By this I mean that the airport didn't treat it as a bomb threat.

      If I say, and I'm bracing myself for the black helicopters as I do, that the whole police force need a damn good kick in the pants, it would be difficult to argue that I'm actually threatening to assault a police officer.

      He made a 'joke' - hell, he made a comment to vent his frustration.

      Legally it doesn't make a difference whether he sent it by email or twitter (the way the CPS wants to see things, as it's misuse of electronic communications or some such). So what if I said the same thing in a personal conversation using Skype? Illegal?

      The whole thing is moronic, and yes, the police really do need a damn good kick in the pants.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      There was no inconvenience to travellers

      The airport reports that there was no inconvenience to travellers except from the police messing around. They didn't take it seriously because it was obviously (to them) not a threat.

  12. Michael Maguire 1
    Thumb Up

    Join the Facebook Support Group

    "Democracies should allow bad jokes - Chambers Twitter airport 'bomb threat'"

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=265300406002

    "This is a group for people who feel that arrest and a life airport ban is excessively heavy handed for a joke on Twitter."

    1. Charles Manning

      Joke???

      He'll have adequate time explaining the joke to his prisontard mates. Joke it aint.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Flame

      Already half way there

      "Democracies should allow bad jokes"

      Facebook and Twitter are allowed, aren't they? Plenty of bad jokes in play already, methinks.

  13. TimeMaster T
    Black Helicopters

    Title? I don't need no stinking title!!

    Never underestimate the lengths that stupidity will go to to protect and defend its own stupidity.

    The prosecution will try to nail this guy to the wall using every tactic, dirty and otherwise, so that they and the police don't look like total idiots. Which will of course confirm it but that won't help this guy much.

    Kudos to this guy for not just rolling over, and good luck to him as well.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brits, be careful what you say

    Brits, keep yourself anonymous, watch what you say, in case some asshole pretends it is a real threat, or fakes 'being scared'. The consequences of that are so serious you may never shake them off, you may appear on secret lists, have your private info examined and shared freely, or be locked up if you refuse to assist in the fishing expedition that follows, or have a dirty picture on your PC.

    You are in the UK FFS, if it's one thing you've learned by now it's to avoid hypothetical conversations, jokes, idle threats, double entendre, anything that can be used against you.

    HE IS NOT GUILTY, the charge against him is that he SENT THREATS. He did not SEND it and it was not a THREAT, it was clearly bluster, I won't even call it an 'idle threat', because a threat needs to be directed to be a threat. So he is not guilty in any sense, and the charges against him are clearly malicious.

    Welcome to NuLabour, watch your words carefully.

    1. Mark 65

      Er, wrong

      He did "send it". The act of submitting the tweet and it's subsequent transmission means that it was sent via the communications medium in the eyes of the law. It doesn't even need to be received to be considered under the law which he is being charged with breaking. The threat, or more specifically "menacing" nature of the message is what is up for grabs.

      Personally I'd let him off and have the judge sternly tell him not to be a twat in future but to consider that the police and CPS are trigger-happy incompetent pricks that seek out all low hanging fruit before posting/tweeting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I suspect...

        That he will be found guilty, but then just be bound over. It's the old fashioned way of dealing with this sort of idiocy. He gets a criminal record, is ordered to pay nominal costs (and probably a £10 "victim surcharge") and that should teach him not to be such a twat in future.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    I wish him luck

    Although I don't much fancy his chances of common sense prevailing in our bland and humourless mediocracy

    1. Charles Manning

      mediacracy

      Well that's how I first read it, and makes sense.

      Twitter et al have lowered the bar on publishing and anyone with thumbs can now air their uneducated opinions.

  16. Stefing
    Paris Hilton

    Joke not Hoax

    It's not like he rung up the airport - he posted it on Twitter.

    Besides, he doesn't fit the profile of a bomber - he's not a dumb American blonde.

  17. scrubber
    Flame

    Harm?

    There was no harm.

    Airport was not disrupted and the guy had no means of following through on his private threat.

    And yes, it was private. People follow his innane tweets are, effectively, his friends. He did not contact the airport, he had no intent to cause alarm or disruption and none was caused.

    Worsdt case scenario he may have wasted police time, or maybe the person who over-reacted to his tweet wasted police time.

    Mind you, the more police time that is wasted the better. Otherwise they'll be out there stopping and searching in contravention of EU law, but the UK govt said they're allowed to act illegally, so that's ok. Which reminds me, must read up on the Nuremberg trials and see what the most common defence was....

  18. OldBiddie

    Perspective

    Go to twitter, type "I'm going to kill" in to the search box and click search - be careful not to click post as you may well find yourself up for prosecution under the same act as this chap is being charged.

    Now type in "I'm going to blow up"

    Now type in "I'm going to bomb"

    Now type in "I'm going to rape"

    Now type in "I'm going to hurt"

    Now type in "I'm going to punch"

    Now type in "I'm going to steal"

    How many of those people in the search results does the CPS intend to charge? It'd certainly help to meet government targets.

    Hell, TheWileyOnes has stated on twitter, just 8 hours ago as I type this that: "In memory of Peter Graves: I'm going to steal a 747 to crash into that big glass window at LAX." - I'm scared, better get on to the authorities now ... it's just as credible.

    I think perhaps we should get a little bit of perspective and put the common sense filter on for a moment.

  19. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Justice

    Many people will wrongly admit guilt for doing something which they mistakenly believe is an offence but isn't when it comes down to it - this can be particularly so when the police will offer a seemingly innocuous caution to avoid prosecution.

    It is for the prosecution to prove that what happened did happen, and that what happened is an offence as per the definition of such an offence. It is everyone's right to demand that.

    I'm just glad that he seems to have received legal advice which he did not appear to have when he originally pleaded. The absence of mens rea will play an important part in this case, and even the prosecution seemed to admit there was none. If that's so, it seems the prosecution will either drop the case or waste everyone's time in court. I think he'd have to be extremely unlucky to get a judge and jury who couldn't see it for what it was; unwise maybe, but not an actual threat, a poor joke but not menacing.

  20. Winkypop Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Arrest everyone who uses Twitter

    For any reason at all.

    End crimes against humanity!

  21. lukewarmdog
    Grenade

    plea change

    According to the thelawyer.com link earlier, the charges against him have changed hence the plea change.

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