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"Bomb Threat" Tweet Conviction Overturned By UK Appeals Court 103

Posted by timothy
from the hope-he-sends-some-celebratory-tweets dept.
New submitter Kupfernigk writes "Paul Chambers was the man who was convicted (in England) of a terrorist offense based on a tweet threatening to 'blow up' Robin Hood Airport because they couldn't get snow cleared. Despite the fact that it was obviously a (feeble) joke, the Crown Prosecution Service actually went ahead with a prosecution and were able to convince a junior judge sitting with magistrates. The senior judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, said 'We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.' In effect, they have said that the original decision was not made objectively, which can be considered a severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor."
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"Bomb Threat" Tweet Conviction Overturned By UK Appeals Court

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  • by NettiWelho (1147351) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:51AM (#40789141)
    Its not severe until the Crown Prosecutor gets fired and jailtime.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:09AM (#40789251)

    Maybe he can be extradited to USA to face proper conviction after a brief tour in Guantanamo?
    He's probably wearing an electronic wrist watch that can be used as a detonator, so he can easily be convicted, like the other people USA is torturing there.

  • Re:Slap? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:11AM (#40789265) Homepage

    The prosecution isn't supposed to try the case and decide who's guilty.

    Absolutely.

    What might be worth considering, however, is that the prosecution does have a duty to determine whether bringing a case is in the public interest:

    In 1951, Sir Hartley Shawcross, who was then Attorney General, made the classic statement on public interest: "[i]t has never been the rule in this country - I hope it never will be - that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution". He added that there should be a prosecution: "wherever it appears that the offence or the circumstances of its commission is or are of such a character that a prosecution in respect thereof is required in the public interest" (House of Commons Debates, Volume 483, 29 January 1951). This approach has been endorsed by Attorneys General ever since.

    From "The Code for Crown Prosecutors [cps.gov.uk]," at paragraph 10 of section 4.

    The article in the summary provides that:

    The judges noted there was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest any of the followers of the ”tweet“, or anyone else who may have seen it posted on Mr Chambers' timeline, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism was real, even minimally alarming. (My emphasis)

    Following the test set out in the Code, and taking into account the common public interest factors for and against prosecution, I am surprised that this prosecution would pass the public interest test, given a lack of evidence of harm, or of anyone finding it menacing.

  • Too many, the UK has plenty of serious issues that are truly pressing. But sometimes, the crown likes to "go out if it's way" just to show that it can and piss all over people. It's not smart, but considering how fast the UK is sliding towards a police state? It's something to pay attention to. Arbitrary repression through the courts, instead of common sense prosecution. I'd post some truly horrific stories from some of my now canuck buddies(UK-expats), but they'd probably get traced back to particular individuals, and that would be bad. Living in fear of the government and country that you're not even a citizen of anymore, should say something.

  • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:34AM (#40789545)

    Everything has its limits.

    Only if you put limits on it.

    Those limits are where your "free speech" results in real harm to other individuals.

    Unlike in this case!

    When you mindlessly apply these laws to people who clearly didn't intend to do any harm, you end up harming innocent people, degrading respect for the law, and wasting taxpayer money.

    Plus, much of the people whining that no one can take a joke any more will be whining about why the police didn't follow up on the public comments of the next psycho who shoots up a mall or bombs a bus terminal, comments made before he did those atrocities.

    No, because I don't worry about unlikely events, and I don't believe that people who are very likely not intending to do harm should be harmed just because there is a minuscule chance that they could. Incidentally, I also don't care for pro-TSA mentalities (everyone getting punished).

    Now mod me as troll, because I don't tow the ridiculously naive and cluelessly idealistic slashdot party line on "free speech".

    I think you picked the wrong story to make this comment on if that was your intention.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:38AM (#40789599)

    Are you afraid to speak your mind because something similar may happen to you?

    If so, I guess this is not considered money "wasted" but "invested".

  • Re:Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@gmail. c o m> on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#40789959) Homepage Journal

    "Only if you put limits on it."

    no, the limits are natural. people like to whine about government taking away their rights, and in many cases the government is hurting rights for bad or no good reasons. but there are also people who whine about limits on their rights who are just idiots who don't understand where their "freedoms" impact others: my freedom to drive drunk, my freedom to blast my music at 3 am, my freedom to have an unchained dog run at you on the road, etc.

    there's that famous quote: "Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins"

    and what it means is your rights and freedoms naturally exist in tension with other people's rights and freedoms

    so no, you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre because... fascist controlling government WHARGARBBBLLL...

    no, because you might cause someone else's death or injury in panic

    NATURAL limits on your freedoms

    this is the difference between understanding freedom as a teenager understands it (freedom from responsibility) and understanding freedom as an adult understands it (freedom and responsibility)

    this is not denigrate chronological teenagers: plenty of teenagers have a well-developed sense of morality on the subject, and plenty of chronological adults are immature irresponsible assholes: mental teenagers

  • by David Chappell (671429) on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:15AM (#40790053) Homepage

    The rules about compensation generally are designed so as to give them as little as possible. They even charge you board and lodging if you were in prison and are subsequently cleared and given compensation.

    Interesting. How much exactly is lodging in a prison cell and board in a prison cafeteria worth on the open market? I would think the figure is close to zero.

  • Re:A test (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grumbleduke (789126) on Friday July 27, 2012 @11:19AM (#40790821) Journal

    I think, as a test of the freedom of speech, this person should now receive death threats for the rest of his life. As a joke. For fun.

    So you've just used a public electronic communications network to send a message calling for someone to receive death threats for the rest of his life. That could be considered a message "of an indecent, obscene or menacing character". Sounds like an arguable case for a prosecution under s127 of the Communications Act 2003 [legislation.gov.uk]; the same law this guy was originally convicted under.

    Fortunately, today's ruling means you're probably fine, but it is something worth bearing in mind next time you incite death threats.

    Or were you merely joking?

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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