back to article Twitter airport bomb joke conviction binned in common-sense WIN

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 …

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  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    What about the Crown Court judge?

    Given that the decision was pretty clear, and made it clear that no-one in their right mind would have taken the original tweet seriously, will some form of action be taken to ensure that the original judge is perhaps considered for early retirement or transfer to some less onerous duties, perhaps cleaning the windows?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

      What kind of control freak downvotes this kind of comment? Gas!

      1. Allicorn
        Coat

        Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

        A window cleaner that's proud of his work?

        1. Annihilator
          Thumb Up

          Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

          I'm not a window cleaner!!

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fr0w-C2Ichc

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

        "What kind of control freak downvotes this kind of comment? Gas!"

        It was I, District Judge Jonathan Bennett!

      3. Tom 35 Silver badge

        Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

        They can't stand streaky windows.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What kind of control freak downvotes this kind of comment?

        It was unkind to window cleaners.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: What kind of control freak downvotes this kind of comment?

          Well it wasn't Jake so hmmmm

    2. The Baron
      Coat

      Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

      I understand that he's been given a week and a bit to get his shit together, otherwise he will be blown sky-high.

    3. LarsG
      Meh

      Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

      He was probably 100 years old and still used an ear trumpet.

      This decision is already too late to have saved his career.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

        In fact it was a junior, female judge sitting with 2 magistrates. The real issue is with the CPS who brought the prosecution even though the police didn't take it seriously. It was the CPS who have just created a huge waste of taxpayer money by their decision to prosecute. I don't blame a junior judge; she could well have been overawed by the CPS - perhaps a quiet word that the Home Secretary really wanted a conviction on this one? We don't know, and the judge is unlikely to take to Twitter to tell us what really happened. Though, given the very authoritarian tendency of the unlamented Blair-Brown years, I have my own opinion on the subject.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: What about the Crown Court judge?

          The very existence of the CPS is the reason why this went as far as it did, but that isn't a flaw in the CPS. It's the entire reason the CPS was created. The police, who had common sense, weren't bringing high-profile prosecutions; the government wanted prosecutions, so the CPS was created to take the job of bringing prosecutions away from the police in order to make political hay.

          Whilst it was created in 1985 and thus isn't the sole responsibility of Blair's government, until 2003 it had to wait to be asked by the local police force to bring a prosecution, and only if that force chose to ask. What changed in 2003 was the introduction of the 2003 criminal justice at which, amongst such innocuous details as removing double jeopardy protection, right to trial by jury and creating more new crimes than at any time in British history, gave the CPS the sole right to bring prosecutions, reversing its relationship with the police completely and leading to the current series of farcical trials that make big headlines but don't achieve any sort of justice.

  2. Crisp Silver badge
    Go

    We can be sarcastic on the internet again!

    Woohoo!

  3. Mad Mike

    This isn't just about the judges. Your would have through airport authorities would have enough to do thwarting genuine threats than spend ages going after someone who made an obvious joke. Do they really think an al Qaeda bomber would make the threat on twitter, complete with his id and effectively his home address for a week hence? Might impact on the deliverability of his plan somewhat.........

    Whilst they were pursing this chap, all sorts of other threats are getting through. The child who went to Rome without any documentation, ticket, anything this week would seem a good example. Maybe that only happened because they were too busy going after this guy, rather than checking their systems are up to scratch?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Do they really think an al Qaeda bomber would make the threat on twitter

      Nobody said terrorists had to be intelligent...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
        Boffin

        "Nobody said terrorists had to be intelligent"

        However, a number of studies have shown that terrorists, particulalry suicide bombers tend to be from a middle-class highly educated background, with many being graduates.

        This may explain why they occasionally succeed, when those going after them appear to be of far lower average intelligence.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Not so much the suicide bombers... they aren't the smartest, being manipulated by those who don't blow themselves up. If there were very smart, stable and motivated suicide bombers, they would be able to coordinate their actions and blow up a plane, rather than set fire to their shoes or pants- but such people prefer to pull the strings of others from a safe distance. It would take several individuals per plane, though- combining their fluids etc.

          1. Pete B

            @ Dave 126

            "It would take several individuals per plane, though- combining their fluids etc."

            Sounds like you're planning on joining the mile-high club eh Dave?

      2. John Bailey
        Childcatcher

        True.. But when the people they are supposed to be terrorising are so determined to be terrified that any mention of blowing something up in ANY context, no matter how Blindingly obviously transparently and unquestionably NOT A THREAT is treated as a real threat. Then the idiots have won.

        I mean. seriously.. "If the airport doesn't stop making the planes stay on the ground, I'm going to make them keep the planes on the ground".. Is this a logically consistent sentence? Does it pass the "pissed off bloke sounding off on twitter" test?

        Coming soon to a newspaper near you.. "Aircraft destroyed by London Surface to air missile found to be magpie carrying tinfoil". "Minister for running around in circles and screaming considers death toll a tragic, but entirely proportional response to the new suicide litter collecting bird threat. "

        The rational response is..

        1) Read tweet.

        2) Dismiss as nonsense.

        3) Slap person who reported this nonsense.

        4) Get on with life.

        5) Eat more fibre.

        Gotta go.. My right offside car tyre is a bit soft, so I'm going to pop down to the filling station and blow it up..

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Happy

          "Gotta go.. My right offside car tyre is a bit soft, so I'm going to pop down to the filling station and blow it up.."

          You owe me a keyboard!

    2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Whilst they were pursing this chap, all sorts of other threats are getting through. The child who went to Rome without any documentation, ticket, anything this week would seem a good example. Maybe that only happened because they were too busy going after this guy, rather than checking their systems are up to scratch?

      A reasonable post ruined by hyperbole!

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        but they made sure he wasn't carrying any dangerous substances such as Evian mineral water, so the public were not at risk.

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Actually...

      "...This isn't just about the judges. Your would have through airport authorities would have enough to do thwarting genuine threats than spend ages going after someone who made an obvious joke...."

      ... they HAVEN'T. This is what everybody seems to miss about the current oppressive regime running our security.

      There really are very few genuine threats, to the point of their non-existence. The few threats the Security Service have manage to scrape together to justify this huge expansion in their budget, staff and general power are almost certainly young easily-led idiots who have been enticed into joining a plot by agent-provocateurs working for the SS. There is actually no other way they could catch them, anyway...

      However, once you consider that the alternative was having our Security Service closed down in 1995 once the Cold War had ended and their reason for existence had come to an end, I guess you can see why the SS are frantic to count every person bringing a camera and a bottle of drink into the country as a possible threat...

      Watch them go after 'pedophiles' and anyone indulging in 'dangerous sex' shortly. Their sister agency seems to be building a bit of a track record in this area...

    4. John A Blackley

      Wrong!

      In order to recognise an "obvious joke" one has to be imbued with a sense of humour.

      You're talking about "airport authorities". On which planet do they have a sense of humour?

      1. Steven Jones

        Re: Wrong!

        @John A Blackley

        Don't blame the airport authorities - they guy who reported this had to do so because of the procedures. In court they testified they did not take it seriously. The first problem was with the police - they turned it into some form of spectacle by turning up (armed no less) to arrest Paul Chambers at work. The second problem was the CPS, in that they appear to have gone out of their way to justify this enormous reaction by the police. When they found that the original cause of arrest was unsupportable (that of making a threat), they found an obscure sub-section of a statute aimed at preventing harassment phone calls and applied it. By this time, a well known legal blogger (David Allen Green aka Jack of Kent) had picked up on a potential miscarriage of justice and advised Paul Chambers that he had a good case to plead "Not Guilty".

        However, yet another state-appointed official in Doncaster - a stipendiary magistrate (or a lawyer paid by the state) went along with this finding the original tweet was "menacing". This involved postulating some theoretical individual that would have found such a tweet menacing, despite the slightest evidence that anybody had ever found it so, and only the possible existence of this particularly feeble-minded cousin of "The Man on the Clapham Omnibus" might be slightly troubled. Shockingly, this verdict was supported on the first appeal. Those of us with a cynical sort of mind (or, rather experience of bureaucracies, the member's of which first instinct is to protect the system) were not surprised. What it actually took was some judges senior enough to put aside the

        The real question here is about role of the DPP (Keir Stammer), whose personal decision it appears to have been to oppose the appeal. Anybody bringing a reasonable amount of common sense to this would have noted it was an unsupportable case. One has to wonder if he has the right qualities of judgement to be in that post.

        So, don't blame the people low down the food chain - it appears the higher up the system it got, the more those further up chose to defend the indefensible. This could have been cut short at any time by somebody with the courage to recognise a major system failure. As it is, we should all be hugely grateful to those involved in the the defence, like David Allen Green and, most critically of all, Paul Chambers as if we are to criminalise hyperbole and bad taste jokes many of us are in trouble. I should also add a vote of thanks to the judges who made this deliberation. Some have said that the prosecution should have made us doubt the system, but ultimately it is the facility to correct which is surely more important.

        nb. "The Man on the Clapham Omnibus" has real significant legal influence in the law of England and Wales, whatever his fictitious nature...

        1. Tim Brown 1
          Alert

          Re: Wrong!

          @Steven Jones "Don't blame the airport authorities - they guy who reported this had to do so because of the procedures."

          That sounds awfully like "But I was only following orders" and we all know where that can lead.

          There seems to be a whole gaggle of jobsworths prepared to stick their hands up and say "but I didn't take it seriously" after the fact. So why did it keep getting passed up the chain then?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wrong!

          Good comment. I think "Keir Stammer" was an inspired typo, though.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe someone should tweet that they are going to firebomb his parents house and see how funny he thinks that is. He behaved like a spoilt kid and got it in the ass!

    1. AndyS

      Yeah. Maybe his dad's best mate, who was due to meet him at the pub that evening. Maybe, when he got to the pub, Mr Chambers wasn't there. So maybe he could send a message that said

      "Get to the pub now, beer's getting cold. Do I need to firebomb you out of your house?!"

      There, about the same level of seriousness. I reckon I can figure out how Paul would react. He'd ignore it.

    2. Mad Mike
      FAIL

      Nope

      Nope. He behaved like a person with a sense of humour. Anyone with even an ounce of humour would have immediately read it as funny and not a genuine threat. If being humerous is acting like a spoilt kit, I'm glad to say I'm a kid!!

    3. kain preacher Silver badge

      You must work for the TSA. Does the UK have a no fly list ? If so he might be on it now.

    4. Aramando

      And you're behaving like a person with absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever.

      1. Real Ale is Best
        Joke

        We here at the FBI have no sense of humour we're aware of.

        </moviequote>

    5. Pinkerton
      Facepalm

      Oh dear, missed the point again...

      It's not about whether it's funny., it's about whether it's a genuine threat.

      If someone makes a pisspoor joke on Twitter that they're going to firebomb his parents' house then I'm sure he'll find it very unfunny indeed but, hey, what can you do? Ignore it. Not laugh. Go into a sarcastic rant. The possibilities are endless. Calling the rozzers, however, shouldn't really be on the list.

      If someone makes what is clearly a genuine threat, however, that's a different story. Give the boys in blue a bell and help thwart an atrocity.

      See the difference? One's a pisspoor joke and one's a genuine threat.

      The key is using common sense, not the legal system, to tell them apart.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear, missed the point again...

        "The key is using common sense, not the legal system, to tell them apart."

        Though one would hope the legal system did have some common sense, or was open to arguments of common sense.

        And indeed it usually does and is, which begs the question why it had to pass so far down the line for common sense to prevail. It does seem to have be politically motivated; having decided his act was unacceptable they were determined to find him guilty and punish him.

        It has happened before and will happen in the future. Many suspect that will be the case for McKinnon and Assange.

        1. Graham Dawson

          Re: Oh dear, missed the point again...

          Putting McKinnon and Assange in the same category seems a little off to me. Assange is accused of rape and is attempting to avoid justice. McKinnon is accused of being embarrassing to an american politician and is attempting to find justice. One of these things is a serious crime. Can you tell which?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh dear, missed the point again...

            Are you threatening to send a threatening tweet regarding terrorism?

            6 Months in the chokey for you, then someone should threaten to threaten to firebomb your parents house and see how you like it!

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now the whole stupid fiasco is over, he might be able to laugh about such a comment! Your purile attempt to be offensive fall flat because your comment can now be taken in the context of the original issue of the joke tweet, making your comment vaguely amusing.

      See my moronic little friend the English language is not as cut and dried as some other very specific languages, and the reason English humour works so well is due to its wonderful ambiguity and our prevalence for innuendo.

      So why don't you bugger off back to school, as you seem to me to be around the age of 13, spend a bit more time in English class and little less time playing truant on adult internet forums!

  5. Code Monkey
    Facepalm

    Finally!

    What a fantastic moment for British justice and common sense. Good job we haven't looked like fools or anything.

    Well done, all!

  6. g e
    FAIL

    What about Paul, though?

    A spot of restitution for Mr Chambers for the consequences of an utter failure in the British Justice system.

    He's lost a LOT because of some officious airport twat(s) and an over zealous and now demonstrably inept judge.

    #CompensatePaulChambers indeed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about Paul, though?

      Oh, he is due for quite a handout. Not US style, but there is loss of earnings, reputational impact etc etc. But he'll probably get shafted out of it because he made people look stupid, despite that they did that to themselves.

      Sometimes you wonder if Guy Fawkes wasn't right..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sometimes you wonder if Guy Fawkes wasn't right..

        I am sure he was, why else would we celebrate his attempt each year??

    2. g e

      Re: What about Paul, though?

      Wow, that got a thumbs down.

      Theresa May is reading?

    3. Arrrggghh-otron

      Re: What about Paul, though?

      While the court system deserves a kick in the bollocks for their original decision and subsequent failure to over turn it (until this time that is) we should remember that it was the Crown Prosecution Service who pushed for his conviction.

      1. Red Bren
        Big Brother

        Would this be the same CPS

        That refused to prosecute BT and Phorm on the grounds that there wasn't enough evidence?

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Would this be the same CPS

          Corrupt Prosecution Service?

          Yep- that's them.

    4. Alex King

      Re: What about Paul, though?

      The compensation should come from a personal fine from the original trial judge, who should also lose his job. What a massive waste of public money this whole business has been.

  7. Alien Doctor 1.1

    Frankie Boyle...

    Susans' husband does it again - a brilliant comment from Frankie.

    1. Jedit
      Thumb Down

      Re: Frankie Boyle...

      A great victory for comedy would be Frankie Boyle being jailed for hate speech after his comments on the disabled. He's not funny, he's a mean-minded and nasty man who attacks literally anyone who can't fight back.

      1. dotdavid
        FAIL

        Re: Frankie Boyle...

        I know Frankie Boyle isn't my sort of humour but we should defend his right to say unfunny and potentially hateful things and not be jailed for it. He will be judged by the public and his potential customers (who may, for example, decide not to support his work if he says something nasty about the disabled).

        Not being able to tell the difference between what's not funny and what's criminal is exactly the sort of thing that got us into this ridiculous mess regarding the airport bombing joke tweet of Mr Chambers. I would suggest you try to avoid the same mistake.

        1. Jedit

          "I would suggest you try to avoid the same mistake."

          The difference between "not funny" and criminal? I can tell what that is. "Not funny" is joking about blowing up an airport. "Criminal" is mocking and deriding a disabled child because of their disability, then doing it again when people dare to complain about it.

          I appreciate that you're trying to be fair and don't want speech to be unduly restricted - in fact I agree with you wholeheartedly on that - but there are still things that cannot and should not be condoned. Boyle does them.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Frankie Boyle...

      Actually, no. I know that Frankie makes a living out of being offensive, and it's funny-ish in a bleak sort of way, but what happened here was that someone had to fight VERY hard to obtain what most of us would consider a common sense decision. WTF? You cannot lock up the CPS clowns who started this for not having a sense of humour, but for a nation that has practically DEFINED humour for the rest of the planet this is a jolly poor show.

      I can only commend the last judge for not allowing the UK to become the US, but the danger is far from over.

      Maybe a public shaming of people making idiotic decisions would help, I am at a loss to see how this idiocy can otherwise be corrected.

      The worst issue is that the funds get wasted that could help addressing the real threat. It exists, but it (a) doesn't need this idiocy and (b) the Met Police has proven it was up to the job during the IRA bombing campaign - without any weird laws or fools in wigs and robes making a mockery of common sense.

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Frankie Boyle...

      It's great that they appointed him to plan the Olympic opening ceremony. I'll be sure to watch - it should be hilarious.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Failure

    Plenty of comments about the original judge and the airport staff, but what about the main cause of failure - the bit in the middle. The case went to court because the police took the complaint seriously and the CPS followed through to a trial. I submit that it was a total lack of sensible judgement in those two areas that caused this.

    1. SD24576

      Re: Failure

      The police didn't take it seriously if you read the judgement:

      "He regarded it as “non-credible”, not least because it featured the appellant’s name and, as he noted, the appellant was due to fly from the airport in the near future. Nevertheless in accordance with airport procedure he passed this “tweet” to the airport police. The airport police themselves took no action, presumably for exactly the same reason, but they decided to refer the matter on to the South Yorkshire police."

      Yorkshire police then said: "there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that there is anything other than a foolish comment posted on “Twitter” as a joke for only his close friends to see.”

      The problem is down to the CPS for deciding to prosecute nevertheless.

      It was also interesting to read the legal justification for the original conviction and how, whilst it may seem silly to the layman, it was grounded in case law.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Failure

        whoosh

        the complaint should have been screwed up and chucked in the bin before it was forwarded on to the police, I think the OP was saying, and we all agree so why go on?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Failure

        It is all a sequence of 'yeah it's a joke, but pass it on uip the chain just in case. That's my arse covered.'

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @SD24576 (Re: Failure)

        I stand corrected. Should have read the judgement.

        Other than that, it is pretty obvious that a lack of common sense (or communal arse-covering) led to this going as far as it did.

        I think my original point is still valid, though : if we can't trust the police or the CPS to stop the process when it is clear that no offence has been committed, then the system is just a little bit broken.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you don't up-vote this

    I'll blow you all up!

    1. Aramando

      Re: If you don't up-vote this

      Ha, take that!

    2. King Jack
      FAIL

      Re: If you don't up-vote this

      You might get up-votes if you had the guts not to hide behind a mask.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If you don't up-vote this

        You may or may not have a point; but downvotes? Most downvoting here these days seems like trolling devoid of imagination, possibly because a single click is all they can manage now, what with the Largactil and all.

    3. Andus McCoatover
      FAIL

      Re: If you don't up-vote this

      Oops - sorry....

  10. Ben Rosenthal
    Joke

    Whatever muppet in the CPS that decided this was a worthwhile case to spunk money on should be taken out back and shot.

    And I would like the court to note that I am not volunteering to do that myself!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re "note that I am not volunteering to do that myself"

      Clear evidence of a conspiracy. I think we have uncovered a network here, sergeant...

  11. Jason Hindle

    This is great news but......

    What of the police officers and CPS, who followed an investigation through to trial where their judgement was at best lacking but also potentially malicious? I hope Paul Chambers comes out of this well compensated for what these people have put him and his family through. Do the people who bring the British justice system into disrepute simply get away with it?

  12. ukgnome Silver badge

    Aug 1st - next twitter joke trial will begin for the lawyers

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/26/twitter_spoof_account_unmasked/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aug 1st - next twitter joke trial will begin for the lawyers

      I've just got mysqlf a twitter account, merely to 'follow' this bloke.

      Haven't the DM heard of the Streisand Effect?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aug 1st - next twitter joke trial will begin for the lawyers

        I have got a twitter account supporting him as not_s_dorkland

        I can see not only orkland getting flamed off twatter himself (if he is a user) but lots of attacks on his rag.

        it's 2012 let the games begin

  13. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    Great, but...

    ... meanwhile, in a different case, it's been ruled that private text chat on the internet can be subject to the Obscene Publications Act.

    "According to the Court of Appeal’s Judgment in the recent case of R v GS [2012] private one to one text chat on the internet can be subject to the Obscene Publications Act 1959 (OPA)."

    http://obscenitylawyer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/no-words-were-harmed-in-writing-this.html

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Great, but...

      "well bugger me!" - or would I get done for soliciting ?

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Great, but...

      http://obscenitylawyer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/no-words-were-harmed-in-writing-this.html

      I've checked that. It refers to someone being done for thinking about having sex with a minor, and mentioning that to someone privately over the net.

      In the UK under these circumstances, the law is that all normal precedent is suspended, and the job of the police, CPS and court system is to arrange for a conviction in as rapid a time as conveniently possible, bending or ignoring all judicial rules in the process. If, for instance, there was no other way to gain a conviction, a judge is at liberty to rule that, since breath is a requirement for all activity, the prisoner stands convicted of breathing with intent to do something obscene.

      In the US they have the same rule about terrorism (only Arab-based). This is what keeps the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open, and it's the reason why Mr Chambers was done for his tweet here. They used to have this rule about Communism in the 1940/50s.

      I'm afraid it's just a human-in-society kind of thing. We like torturing and killing people we can all agree are 'different from us'. In the 1600s we used to do it to 'witches'....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Great, but...

        Why would you think about having sex with miners

        A) - they are manic

        B) - they are covered in coal

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          A minor's Minor confusion

          As a child I read the sleeve-notes to a Chuck Berry CD and was always confused by the reference to him being 'arrested for transporting a minor across State lines', imaging a Morris car. It was also within the same notes that I first heard of Mary Whitehouse- it appears she didn't want to play with his Ding-a-Ling.

  14. koopmaster

    Hey I am a window cleaner.. ;)

    and a IT engineer.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hey I am a window cleaner.. ;)

      so you can clean the windows and reset the router? great, come in....

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. taxman
    Black Helicopters

    Dumb question

    But who reported this twit (can't call them tweets as the service would then be Tweeter - pedentish I know) to the 'Peelers' in the first place to make them turn up a week later to touch up his collar?

    1. Gareth Howell

      Re: Dumb question

      It was probably the airport search for itself in Twitter, as all large organisations do now, to enagage with its customers.

  16. Gareth Howell
    FAIL

    Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

    I think I must be on of the few not celebrating that this conviction was overturned. Everyone is talking about humour, and that isn't the issue here. The issue is the venue! Nothing on the internet is private. So while a joke is very funny down the pub with your mates, shouting it out in the middle of a crowded town centre isn't. As the subject says, twitter isn't private and you don't control who sees your tweets. So something you and your mate find funny, others won't. And how do you tell a threat from a joke? No one has answered that yet. All this case means is idiots are still able to post comments to the web without any come back!

    What would have happened if everyone assumed this was a joke and then something did happen? Those self same people critiscing the police and CPA for (rightly) charging this chap, would be the first shouting why didn't they stop this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      "And how do you tell a threat from a joke? No one has answered that yet."

      If you don't know by now, you never will.

      Mummy and Daddy didn't do a very goog job dragging you up. Hey, british parents, what can you say. Even the basics aren't covered.

    2. Arbuthnot Darjeeling

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      Grow up and recognise that the freedom to make foolish remarks is important and worth defending.

      If anything had happened....whoosh!!!.... the point you're missing is there was never any danger of this person 'doing anything' - he was not making a serious threat to blow up the airport, he was sharing his frustration in a way that we all understand. He had not made any attempt to fulfill his threat. He did not have either the intent or the means to fulfill his threat. His tweet was not a communication directed to the airport - it was sent to his followers which probably didn't include the airport.

      If because a tiny minority of people want to damage our way of life by blowing things up, we are required to live under continual police and security scrutiny and mustn't make a silly remark now and then, well, the terrorists' work is done for them - we have destroyed our own way of life and our own freedoms. It might seem a big conclusion from a small premise, but really, living where we do, the right to come and go and say what we like is the crux of it all.

    3. NukEvil
      Mushroom

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      It's idiots like yourself that keep shouting the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" mantra whenever something *could possibly* happen and the law enforcement officers and legal system have to decide whether or not what was posted was in jest. It's also lower lifeforms like yourself that keep comparing stuff that happens on the internet to stuff that happens in real life. Posting something on a public forum on the internet is not the same as screaming it out in a public place, no matter how many similar "people" like yourself keep trying to compare the two.

      It's the talk of "let's not *offend* anyone!!!" that's one of the main reasons our civilization is in its inevitable decline--we don't actually have a choice of who to vote for, because no mater who we vote for, it's the same person every time.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1
        Stop

        Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

        > Posting something on a public forum on the internet is not the same as screaming it out in a public place, no matter how many similar "people" like yourself keep trying to compare the two.

        For legal purposes, they are pretty much the same. When you scream stuff out in a public space, people within earshot are perhaps better able to understand your degree of seriousness and intentions than when you post something on the internet, which (a) has no tone of voice and (b) has a practically unlimited audience. I don't think you'll find many lawyers who would draw a distinction between public speech, printed publication and posting online. They're all public.

        PS. You put "people" in quotes, there. Dehumanising your debating opponent is puerile and counterproductive.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      Did you get planning permission for that if?

      The "threat" was that if they (the airport) didn't do what they wanted to do anyway in a period much longer than the period in which they wanted to do it anyway and would almost certainly do it anyway, he would blow the airport sky high (an exceedingly difficult task - see Glasgow airport bollard attack).

      (Maybe I FAILed to detect your irony. If so, well played, sir!)

    5. Steven Jones

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      @Gareth Howell

      If you can't, by context, work out if a remark is meant as a real threat or humorous, then I'd suggest you try practising, or you're rather likely to encounter a few awkward social moments...

    6. Jonathan Richards 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: Grow up and recognise twitter isn't private!!!

      My thought exactly. From TFA: "...a series of tweets to ... Sarah Tonner". No, clearly not. A series of messages published to the world, and in the offending message clearly not addressed to her but to the airport. "You've got a week and a bit ...".

      Bitching about the airport in incendiary terms in private would be one thing, but publishing it was shortsighted, and Twitter messages are definitely published.

  17. hugo tyson
    FAIL

    What if....

    > What would have happened if everyone assumed this was a joke and then something did happen?

    ...then you could be certain that it wasn't actually anything to do with that bloke. Duh.

    Correlation =/= causality nor even connection.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      What would have happened if everyone assumed this was a joke and then something did happen

      Like 'Batman'?

  18. zoomer

    common sense at last

    If there's any justice they will be charging the person who reported this as wasting police time, and all those involved should be charged with Malicious prosecution - I hate to think how much public money this has wasted and the affect it has had on this guys life. It certainly makes me feel that our system is out of touch and tries to stamp out free speech

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: common sense at last

      Let’s not just charge them, let’s charge them! Send ‘em a bill to cover the cost of the wasted time. If fact lets bill all dickheads, especially those who make hoax 999 calls and drunks who cause nothing but trouble. Why should I have to pay for their ridiculousness?

    2. Cameron Colley

      Re: common sense at last

      Rather than suggesting that people be blamed for just doing their jobs in a professional manner you should, perhaps, take note of the chain of events. The person who first reported the tweet did so because he would likely have lost his job if he did not and because it was part of his terms of employment to pass anything like this, no matter how frivolous, "up the chain".

      Some reading comprehension would tell anyone that the only people who made stupid decisions were South Yorkshire Police and the CPS.

  19. Jim 59

    Nah

    I take the common sense argument but everybody who is not dumb knows you never, ever joke about blowing things up. National security ops have to take everything seriously and don't have time to reverse-engineer every statement and analyse its social context. Would you get on a plane and then with a big smile tell the pilot you have bomb on board, nudge nudge ? What do you think the other passengers would then do to you ?

    What depresses me is that the authorities are actually listening to every tweet.

    1. Paul 5
      Stop

      every person in the chain of events taking every joke seriously?

      Whether or not "national security ops" are as overworked as you suggest, you must know that the Crown Prosecution Service has the time (and the duty) to consider the context of an act -- especially if the act is just writing something, before deciding that the writer deserves to have his life ruined by a conviction.

      Prosecution is not a trivial thing that can be undertaken on a whim, or "just in case" the act might have been serious. Apart from the unjust suffering, it's a huge waste of time and money. The courts have real cases they could be hearing instead.

      The "joker" at the CPS should be disciplined, sacked, or prosecuted.

      1. Jim 59

        Re: every person in the chain of events taking every joke seriously?

        Good points and I deserved the down votes, but the reason the guy was punished is to discourage others from making "jokes". Example: a real friendly stranger on your plane says he has a bomb, says it like a joke - is he kidding ? If the jokers get off scot free, we won't really know, because a real threat can then be disguised as a joke.

        er I think.

      2. Steven Jones

        Re: every person in the chain of events taking every joke seriously?

        'The "joker" at the CPS should be disciplined, sacked, or prosecuted.'

        Sadly, the original "joker" was supported all the way up to opposing the appeal at two levels of court. The current appeal was opposed with the approval of the current Director of Public Prosecutions. It tells you something about the way the system tries to protect itself, and responsibility clearly goes higher than some lowly lawyer in the bottom tier of the CPS.

  20. Deadmonty
    WTF?

    Ricky Gervais - A Comedian?

    When showing quotes from comedians at the end of the article, why did they include Ricky Gervais?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ricky Gervais - A Comedian?

      Well, if that's what he puts on his passport, then he must be?

  21. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Hyperactive officials and low-hanging fruit

    My impression is that the threat of public sector cuts has woken many dozy bureaucrats into a frenzy of hyperactivity. They hope thereby to prove how essential they are and avoid the axe. This would be a good thing if it resulted in an increase in worthwhile activity.

    Unfortunately what they do is to look for tasks that they expect to be quick and easy, without much regard for the value. What is known in mgmtspeak as "low-hanging fruit".

    The Paul Chambers prosecution is an example. Expect to see many more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hyperactive officials and low-hanging fruit

      That was a rubbish impression - it sounded like Sly Stallone

  22. Britt Johnston

    Have you no feelings?

    It's just that the official stealers of orange juice from kiddies like to be taken seriously.

    1. Andus McCoatover
      Windows

      Re: Have you no feelings?

      Yeah. Funny that. Under the "Three strikes and you're out" law you could get the same sentence for stealing a slice of pizza from a kid* equal to if you'd just murdered 12 people in a cinema....Life.

      *He'd been banged up twice before, but... (Have they repealed that - or added the retraction to one of the US's constitutional "Amendments" (= corrections)? )

  23. Oldgroaner
    Headmaster

    How much has it all cost?

    So let's know what this farce has cost the taxpayers, just because the CPS is manned (personned?) by dimwits.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: How much has it all cost?

      Try "staffed". It's delightfully gender neutral, plus it points out how they all act like they have a stick up their arses.

  24. Cameron Colley

    From my reading the CPS are to blame.

    The airport personnel did their job and passed it down the line -- nothing wrong with that as it may have a bearing on a future case (he may have turned up and kicked off, for example).

    The airport police seemed to do similar: logged it and passed on the infornation.

    South Yorks Police did similar in passing it to the CPS, though one wonders why it wasn't treated as "intellegence"..

    Then the CPS decided to prosecute and the judge made an error of judgement -- these things happen, perhaps it is a sign of a need to retire?

    To me that decision to prosecute is the crux of it -- how was the public good served by prosecutiong him?

    Remember, this is the same CPS who were, a few years ago admitedly, suggesting cautions for burglary.

    CPS seems to stand for convictions are all that matters.

  25. David 45

    Good show, chaps!

    Wonder how much this has cost him (monetarily - speaking?). Did it not cost him his job as well? Should be compensated, without a doubt. Someone needs their sense if humour chip replaced.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sex with a bicycle

    This decision must have made the CPS and the rozzers feel the way that Scottish chap felt when he was caught in a closet with his dick up a bicycle; it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do until the light comes on.

    Its remarkable how important such an apparently small and innocuous miscarriage of justice can become. We should all be very grateful to Paul Chambers and his perseverance for reminding us - and the law - what a sense of proportion used to look like before Blair and Co rewrote the script on freedom of expression. Maybe this is the high water mark of the same mindset that has the Metropolitan police acting as the brand enforcement wing for olympic "sponsors" and turned "breach of the peace" into the favourite tool on the coppers swiss army knife.

  27. Richard Jukes

    against the grain

    I know this is against the grain and somewhat controversal, however what would have happened if he had shouted out his tweet in the airport rather than broadcasting it via twitter?

    I personally think that people should be held accountable for what they say on the web. Just because its faceless doesnt mean anything goes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: against the grain

      Not just against the grain, but also incorrect and downright wrong.

    2. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: against the grain

      That's a very reasonable question. But I think we all know what would have happened. Said shouter would have been quietly (or noisily) escorted into a small room where he would have been:

      1) severely reprimanded and humiliated

      2) strip searched

      3) roughed up a bit

      4) arrested and maybe convicted

      5) all of the above or worse (pick your country of choice).

      Mind you, shouting "threats" in a public place is a different kettle of fish altogether, as it could have easily led to a panic, with people getting harmed in the process (similar to shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre). Therefore not very funny and best discouraged. I would humbly submit the "don't say bomb in a airport" law was primarily passed for this reason and on the grounds of public safety. Unfortunately, the more power given to twats, the more likely such power will be abused. This is the current state of play and it is getting worse.

      For me the scarier part of this story is that someone, somewhere is scanning and reading everyone's tweets and that the case went as far is it did. It just shows once more how much freedom we have actually given up for some illusory degree of protection and is much more reminiscent of a place like China.

      Hence the real significance of this entire case and how much more unfunny it would have been if the poor SOB had actually been convicted. Egads, when will it all be over? Please wake me up when it is.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: against the grain

      "...what would have happened if he had shouted out his tweet in the airport..."

      If he'd got as far as this appeal did, the judges would probably - not unreasonably - have upheld the conviction because the context and tone would be completely different, as would the intended audience (see judgement), and Stephen Fry would have got on with finding a different cause to champion.

      The court didn't suggest 'anything goes' on the web, just that sometimes a joke, bad or not, is just that and doesn't require the police + CPS to crank their "proactive anti-terrorism policing media content fabricator" into overdrive.

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