Guy Who Was Arrested & Convicted For Joke Tweet Loses Appeal

from the common-sense-isn't-so-common dept

We found it ridiculous that UK law enforcement pushed forward with a plan to prosecute Paul Chambers, a guy who made a bad joke on Twitter. After hearing that his local airport was closed and noting that he was supposed to fly out of there in a week, he stated that if the airport didn't "get [its] shit together" he was going to "[blow] the airport sky high!!" It's a bad joke, no doubt. And I don't even mind that law enforcement felt the need to check the whole thing out. But where it gets insane is that they pushed forward with prosecuting him. Of course, even law enforcement was smart enough to recognize that they couldn't charge him with making a bomb threat (which is illegal), because they knew he really didn't make a bomb threat. So instead, they charged him with an obscure part of the UK's Communications Act which outlaws sending a message "of menacing character." It got even more ridiculous when he was found guilty of this.

Now, to turn a ridiculous situation into a pure farce, an appeals court has upheld the earlier ruling. Comedian/actor Stephen Fry, who had promised to pay the original fine has again promised to pay whatever Chambers owes. The BBC coverage doesn't explain the court's ruling for upholding the original conviction, but it certainly seems to make the UK judicial system look like a joke. At some point, shouldn't common sense enter into the discussion? It's fine to investigate the comment, but even the officer who investigated it noted that the statement was obviously a "foolish comment posted on Twitter as a joke for only his close friends to see." That's the point at which they tell him maybe he shouldn't make stupid jokes and send him on his way... not go through with a trial.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:07am

    I would make a joke but I'm afraid

     

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    KnownHuman (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:09am

    IAmSpartacus

    Of course, the absurdity of the entire situation has been picked up by Twitter and spurred a globally trending hashtag #IAmSparticus

    http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23iamspartacus

     

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      Eugene (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 9:12am

      Re: IAmSpartacus

      Well great. I guess now *everyone* in England is gonna have to go to trial.

      I'm amused by the people pointing out that Robin Hood Airport is technically named after a terrorist.

       

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    Adam (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Relatedly

    A whole bunch of people in the UK and presumably elsewhere are posting the same tweet with the tag #iamspartacus

    http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23IAmSpartacus

     

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    Paddy Duke (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:13am

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:13am

    No gov't official gets rewarded for showing sense.

    Only for going along with the system. The abstract principles that you think guides them are sheerly your fantasy, a myth that you buy into, which serves the ruling class in keeping the proles thinking that that they can expect justice, despite that in nearly every case it's the opposite.

     

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      Christopher (profile), Nov 13th, 2010 @ 8:42pm

      Re: No gov't official gets rewarded for showing sense.

      Unfortunately, true in England and the United States today. The fact is that our 'justice system' has been moving away from serving justice and instead, giving people ridiculous sentences for challenging the 'elite' and corporations for the past 20 years or more.

       

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    btrussell (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    Thousands of comedians out of work and this guy is trying to be funny? With a bad joke? He should be jailed for life!
    /sarc

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 9:34am

    Just another great example of idiots in charge.

     

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    McCrea, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 9:58am

    Guess I'm the tight-ass

    I'm fine with the prosecution. Didn't we all learn in second grade that sarcasm doesn't translate well on the Internet?

     

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      Any Mouse, Nov 13th, 2010 @ 10:28pm

      Re: Guess I'm the tight-ass

      Nope. The Internet as it is didn't exist when I was in second grade. Hell, we got our first 8086 computers when I was in fourth grade.

       

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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 10:00am

    Yet another entry in the book of reasons why Stephen Fry is Awesome...

     

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    usul_of_arakis (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 10:46am

    And another one..

    Although I have less sympathy for this guy.

    Tory councillor arrested over Alibhai-Brown 'stoning' tweet.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/nov/11/tory-councillor-tweet-yasmin-alibhai-brow n-arrested

     

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    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 12th, 2010 @ 12:43pm

    Sometimes courts have no choice but to enforce the silliest of laws but what takes the cake on this one is that the appellate court added prosecution costs to the original fines as a "how dare you appeal this" snub. That pretty much tripled the fine. (OK, I'm not entirely accurate there so sue me!)

    Once again proving "the law is an ass!"

     

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    Chaos, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 1:01pm

    Unbiased News Source?

    I know this seems a bit off topic but I just read the BBC report on how users are retaliating with the '#iamspartacus' thing doesn't once mention he posted it as a joke.
    Sounds to me the 'Politically Correct' and 'unbiased' British news source is trying to make it out as if it wasn't a joke.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11742182

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 2:02pm

      Re: Unbiased News Source?

      Sounds to me the 'Politically Correct' and 'unbiased' British news source
      You are talking about the BBC, right? It's politically correct in as much as since it got spanked by the goverment a few years ago it's gone out of it's way not to offend them, and it's recently been about as unbiased as Fox news is in the States!

       

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    darryl, Nov 12th, 2010 @ 4:17pm

    "of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live"

    District judge Jonathan Bennett said: "I am satisfied the defendant was, at the very least, aware that this was of a menacing nature and I find him guilty of the offence."

    So it was a menacing act he was found guilty and what was it that he was claiming to do?

    Thats right BLOW up the airport,

    So Mike pipes up and says it was not a 'bomb threat', THEN WHAT THE F*&Y^*% is it MIKE. !!!!

    Was he going to go there and blow up balloons ?

    If you say you are going to blow something up, anyone with any brain's will see that as a bomb threat.

    As the court and the judges did twice.

    the only two people who say it was a joke is Chambwers lawyer, and the cop.

    The cop im sure did not know that 'his small number of close friends' was 600 people and a publicaly searchabe forum.

    You never think one or two steps ahead Mike, you do not see that actions have effects, and you do not see those effects.

    You cannot seem to understand, that a simple message like this might have caused someone enough stress that they had a heart attack.

    Or if the airport took the threat seriously, and a plane was diverted to another airport, and crashed (for no related reason) but would not of crashed if it was not diverted. Then what then is it still just a "dumb joke".

    Like you write off a DDoS attack, what if it is done on a telemedicine web site, and someone loses their life due to your actions ?

    But it seems you cannot see anything past your tunnel vision of the world.

    It would really suck to live in your world Mike..

    At least for my days work, I actually achieve something each day. I dont just spend my life reading slash dot and doing cut and paste.. Never looking beyond your keyboard..

     

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      Any Mouse, Nov 13th, 2010 @ 10:34pm

      Re: "of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live"

      First, a bomb threat needs to be a threat directed to the authorities, or it isn't much of a /threat/, no is it? The fact that it was a tweet to his friends is something you missed, right?

      Second, this is a hobby for Mike, which you'd know if you had half a brain and clicked through to his business site. That's too hard for you, though. We've come to expect the most nonsensical shit to fly out of your mouth, none of it making sense or having a real or even /honest/ point. Why do you keep wasting your and our time? Seriously?

       

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    Dave, Nov 13th, 2010 @ 8:40am

    Waste of money

    What a waste of public funds. Does the judge not live in the real world of humour, sarcasm and perhaps the odd joke or two? I suppose the police have got to think of something to divert attention from their harassment of photographers engaging in perfectly lawful activity and the public's general lack of confidence in them these days.

     

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