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Twitter ‘bomb threat’ joke trial defendant wins appeal

27 Jul 2012

A man found guilty of posting a "menacing" message on Twitter in 2010 has had his conviction overturned after a lengthy appeal process.

Paul Chambers first sent the tweet in 2010, in which he joked about blowing up Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster after bad weather prevented him from traveling to Ireland.

His message was seen by a member of staff at the airport and referred to the police.

In the initial case Chambers was found guilty under section 127 of the Communications Act and ordered to pay a fine of £1,000. The ruling caused uproar and several celebrities, including Stephen Fry, offered to cover the fine.

However, Chambers immediately challenged the ruling and, after two years of legal process, on Friday the Court ruled that the context of the message meant it should not have been considered threatening and the conviction was overturned.

"There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant's [Chambers] "tweet", or indeed anyone else who may have seen the "tweet" posted on the appellant's time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming," it said.

"The appeal against conviction will be allowed on the basis that this "tweet" did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character," the court's decision concluded.

Numerous supports of Chambers welcomed the news, with Father Ted and IT Crowd writer Graham Linehan immediately welcoming the decision on Twitter.

Pirate Party leader Loz Kaye welcomed the ruling but said it was an embarrassment for the establishment that it had ever come to trial.

"This case should never have gone this far, it has been a huge waste of police and court time. Today's verdict is a win for common sense as much as freedom of speech," he said.

Chambers himself had not yet updated his Twitter in response to the ruling.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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