"Menacing" Twitter man walks free

Accountant Paul Chambers, who prosecutors claimed threatened to blow up the Robin Hood airport, has finally been acquitted by a High Court.

Paul Chambers, who has always said he did not expect anyone to take his tweet seriously, had been found guilty of sending a menacing tweet.

When he discovered that Robin Hood airport was closed by snow he sent out a tweet on the publicly accessible site saying  “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!”

The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, ruled that the decision of the crown court that the ‘tweet’ constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not right.

It is not clear why the CPS insisted on the prosecution. If it had considered him likley to blow up the airport the police reacted jolly slowly. A week after be posted the tweet he was arrested by four officers from South Yorkshire police who visited his office at a car distribution firm in Doncaster.

He was fired by the company and later lost another job because of the conviction.

In May 2010, Chambers was convicted by the district judge Jonathan Bennett sitting at Doncaster magistrates court and fined £1,000. In November 2010, the crown court judge Jacqueline Davies, sitting with two magistrates, dismissed his appeal.

The judge said that the tweet was “clearly menacing” and that airport staff were sufficiently concerned to report it.

Louise Mensch, who is Chambers’s constituency MP, said that the CPS owe the whole country an enormous apology. It wasted public money and put him through two and a half years of serious stress for what was a joke.

John Cooper QC, who represented Chambers, said that the outcome of the appeal means that a message has to be of a truly menacing character but also the person who sends it has to intend it to be menacing.

People can have a joke even if it’s a bad joke and people will not be procecuted for it.

According to the Guardiancomic Al Murray, who was in court, said it was a victory for common sense, however he would not hire Chambers as a gag writer.