UK High Court Judges Can't Agree On Twitter Joke Issue, Require Rehearing Of The Case

from the a-complete-farce dept

Remember Paul Chambers? He's the UK accountant who was arrested for tweeting:
"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!!"
Overly serious law enforcement officials saw that as a terrorist threat. It's worth noting that airport officials didn't seem to think it was a serious threat, but understood that it was just a frustrated passenger venting. Still, the case went forward and he not only lost but then lost again on appeal. The case seems to get more farcical each level up the chain it goes. The latest is that, when the case got to the UK High Court, it was heard by two judges who couldn't come to agreement, so the whole appeal needs to be reheard with a three judge panel. Why they didn't do that the first time around is not explained.

Either way, it seems bizarre that tweeting an obvious joke should not only lead to convictions, but such a long and extended judicial process. Talk about creating chilling effects. The case has taken on lots of publicity in the UK, with a number of celebrities pledging support. The BBC article has a quote from Chambers' supporter comedian Al Murray, who found the whole situation laughably ridiculous:
"Paul's tweet has gone the full distance from joke to tragedy to farce via the High Court. We've all got our fingers crossed and will carry on fundraising."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    PlagueSD (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 4:21pm

    Someone needs to introduce the /sarcasm tag to this guy.

    There would be a lot less grief if he added /sarcasm at the end of his tweet.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    arcan, May 30th, 2012 @ 4:24pm

    roses are red
    violets are blue
    talk badly about the king
    we will arrest you.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 4:39pm

    I believe what the article is saying about the appeal is that the case was tried before a magistrate, appealed to a judge who upheld the magistrate's decision, and will now go before a three judge panel of the High Court now that two judges who sit on that court have agreed that the appeal should be heard.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Congratulations UK!

    You have taken that dirty terrorist off the streets. He had the bomb, he had the chemicals...

    Wait, he blew up his Twitter account with words?

    He did nothing but vent frustration?

    Well damn...

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 4:47pm

    Sticks and Stones

    will break your bones, once your words are misconstrued as hurtful

    *I'm pretty sure thats how they want the saying to go

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 4:48pm

    Re:

    Blah Blah
    Black Sheep
    Have you anymore............???

    Thats all i got

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    LDoBe (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 4:52pm

    Next day in the Lancet:

    "Saying Obviously Sarcastic Things on Twitter Considered Harmful"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 5:02pm

    Obviously not a threat, so then...... censorship.....?

    Only censorship folks, censorhip by way of intimidation, why actively censor when you can make an example,

    Watch what you say folks, choose your views, topics, and words, wisely, dont want the censorship parade, censoring your censorhip

     

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  9.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 5:04pm

    Re:

    I believe what the article is saying about the appeal is that the case was tried before a magistrate, appealed to a judge who upheld the magistrate's decision, and will now go before a three judge panel of the High Court now that two judges who sit on that court have agreed that the appeal should be heard.

    Not quite. There was an appeal to the High Court already, but a split decision, so it will be reheard by three judges.

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2012/05/twitter-joke-trial-appeal-no- decision

    http://www.legalweek.com/legal-week/blog-post/2180598/split-decision-rehearing-twitter-j oke-trial-appeal

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Pro Se (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    Re: Re:

    The new cites fill in the blanks on how to interpret the original article.

    Thnx.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Digitari, May 30th, 2012 @ 5:19pm

    Re: could it be?

    "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!!"

    mebee he's one of them thar Homer Sexuals or sumthin..


    (Sorry I moved to Texas a few years ago)

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 5:26pm

    It's only logical to take this as a possible threat, you never know if he's unstable enough to actually do it if you don't look into it more than that lone tweet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 5:30pm

    Re:

    That said i don't know if they looked into his mental history, so the case may well be a farce.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    saulgoode (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    Re:

    If Mr Chambers is an aspiring terrorist then might I suggest that, as a general rule, airports that are actually open should offer better targets for being blown sky high than ones that are closed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 7:51pm

    Re:

    Yes, it is logical to take it as a "possible" threat. It's also logical to spend about 30 seconds investigating it and then going back to more important things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), May 30th, 2012 @ 8:41pm

    Re:

    This isn't about being a possible threat. The guy was already determined not to be a threat. His post was determined to have been joking or sarcastic. Now it is being debated whether to punish him ANYWAY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Tom Anderson, May 30th, 2012 @ 8:41pm

    Doesn't sound like a joke to me, and it's definitely "of menacing character." Why isn't the appeal thrown out?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2012 @ 11:26pm

    so who was the prick that actually started the whole arrest and court procedure? surely, he/she is the one that needs to be prosecuted for wasting court time and costing a fortune? the UK is getting more like the US every day as far as ridiculous happenings, particularly court-wise, is concerned. is Obama working Cameron or what?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2012 @ 12:01am

    Re:

    Do you work in local government? If not, you should apply for a position as you'd make a splendid jobsworth.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2012 @ 12:01am

    Re: Backbone

    Correct. This is s standard case of bureaucratic incompetence, using one of the standard tools of incompetent bureaucrats, imaginary threats. That gives them a nice diversion so they do not have to be bothered doing their real jobs.

    Alert politicians should be able to recognise this pattern easily and sack the perps promptly. That is why politicians are given power over bureaucrats. Alas, there is usually not the political will. When there is political will, it is just wonderful, malfunctioning bureaucrats lose their jobs straight away and it has a most salutary effect on the other bureaucrats. Unfortunately, the whole thing can then blow up as the opposition tries to make political capital over it. Hence the timidity of politicians. They should grow a backbone.

     

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  21.  
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    The eejit (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 12:24am

    Re:

    People be crazy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    peter, May 31st, 2012 @ 2:42am

    Re: Re: Backbone

    "the whole thing can then b*** up"

    You used the B-word. Oh wow, are you in a whole world of hurt now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2012 @ 3:12am

    If it wasn't a joke before, it is now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2012 @ 4:57am

    Don't say bomb in an airport. If you say bomb in an airport, you're going to have a bad time.

    That's basically what this comes down to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2012 @ 5:34am

    Had this been in the US...

    Had this been in the US, the FBI would have shown up at his doorstep will all of the materials required - and then arrest him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    If you say bomb in an airport you'll have a bad time, then they'll let you go.

    This is them not letting go.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    MetalSamurai, May 31st, 2012 @ 10:58am

    Quoted tweet wrong

    Like both the BBC and Grauniad in their original reports you have the tweet wrong. By missing words out the tweet appears more threatening; the complete tweet is *obviously* hyperbolic frustration.

     

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  28.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 11:29am

    Re:

    first thing let's do, is kill all the Toms...
    dog damn ! i hates me all things Anderson ! ! !
    if only we could rid ourselves of all the people with initials TA, *then* we'd be safe...

    and -of course- i'm weally, weally serious, as you can *obviously* tell, 'cause you are unlike all the other nekkid apes on the planet who are not so sure...
    *snicker*
    art guerrilla
    aka ann archy
    eof

     

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  29.  
    icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 11:52am

    I imagine Mr. Chambers is wishing he had a 1st Amendment right about now. It's these wonderful moments I think of when someone tells me the Supreme Court should consider other countries' laws.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Ben (profile), May 31st, 2012 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    And with the original post at 129 characters, he'd easily have had room!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Vic, Jun 1st, 2012 @ 6:56am

    He talked about blowing up an airport! He is obviously a terrorist. I'd say - just shoot the bastard!

    /uhm, that was a joke. a joke, hear me? /sarcasm /joke

    Wait, that was a JOKE I swear! Don't extradite me to the UK! Please!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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