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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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  • and... (Score:5, Funny)

    by oPless (63249) on Friday July 27, 2012 @07:48AM (#40789123) Journal

    A well deserved slap too.

    • Re:and... (Score:4, Funny)

      by stanlyb (1839382) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:51AM (#40789787)
      Where is this slap applied to? Back of the neck, or the bottom....or the left chin, like in the "Rock'N'Rolla" movie..
    • Well I wish it was a slap, but:

      (a) they point to the fact that two courts found the case merited a conviction, and indicate that this vindicates their original decision to prosecute:

      "Following our decision to charge Mr Chambers, both the magistrates' court and the crown court, in upholding his conviction, agreed that his message had the potential to cause real concern to members of the public, such as those travelling through the airport during the relevant time," it said in a statement http://www.bbc.co.u [bbc.co.uk]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MrNaz (730548)

      Not for long I'll bet. The only thing we can be sure about is that the crown prosecutor will be a little more careful in selecting scapegoats from now on. The War on Terror is an ongoing exercise in balancing what the executive arm and its organs can get away with and maximising the state of fear created in the public mind.

      • This case was brought under the last Labour government - and it is well known that the self-righteous lefties have no sense of humour or of proportion.

        Only under the totalitarian comrades would such a case be brought - the problem now is that we have a CPS full of part-trained 'ooman rights idiots for the foreseeable future.

        • Are you fucking kidding me? The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rewritten twice by Thatcher's government and was renewed every single year regardless of who was in power. The Tories nailed their colours to the mast as the party to vote for if you wanted to get tough on crime and tough on terrorism. They were the most totalitarian of the lot.

          • I'm not a Tory or even a LibDem but are you oblivious to Blair's totalitarian laws?

            Civil Contingencies Act Schedule 2 is the same as Hitler's Enabling Act by which he gained absolute power. In the event o a minor emergency, absolute power can be claimed by ministers.
            Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, dubbed Abolition of Parliament Act by the media as it could do that without debate in Parliament.
            Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act -- unlimited internet surveillance (recent internet surveillance atte

            • He said "only" Labour would introduce draconian laws. I refuted his point. Yours is irrelevant.

              • by UpnAtom (551727)

                Clearly, you're a brainwashed Labour crony who can't even acknowledge that what I wrote is fact.

                Furthermore all these laws are still on the statute book and the perilous state of Britain's constitution needs to be public knowledge.

                • I never denied that Labour was just as bad. His point was the ONLY Labour passed or voted for such laws. They didn't. Oh and the PTA which was passed by a Labour government went through Parliament as near as dammit unanimously when it was first passed, so the Tories had a hand in that too.

    • And if a bomb did go off, people would be complaining for not reacting to this.

  • by Infiniti2000 (1720222) on Friday July 27, 2012 @07:48AM (#40789129)
    "It's Twitter, remember, not the pub!"
    • by fatphil (181876)
      As someone who was in The Sussex Arms in Covent Garden in early october 1992, I think you should be more concerned about terroristic activities in pubs than on websites where almost everyone talks bollocks all the time. (And also underground trains, thanks to a 1991 event.)
  • by NettiWelho (1147351) on Friday July 27, 2012 @07:51AM (#40789141)
    Its not severe until the Crown Prosecutor gets fired and jailtime.
    • by Xest (935314)

      Any idea if the guy even gets compensation and the costs and fine he had to pay back?

      I expect for the amount of damage this did to his career etc. he should deserve a fairly hefty compensation package.

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        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.

        • by David Chappell (671429) on Friday July 27, 2012 @09:15AM (#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.

          • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

            Couldn't give you exact figures, but I've seen values of around £45k to £50k for 18 months in prison.

            • Couldn't give you exact figures, but I've seen values of around £45k to £50k for 18 months in prison.

              That is probably the costs paid by the state to keep someone in prison. Here is a news story about someone who was forced to pay the room-and-board fee: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-505428/Victim-false-rape-claim-pay-12-500-bed-board-jail.html [dailymail.co.uk]

              He received £252,500 in compensation for three years and four months and paid £12,500 for room and board. So they charged him about £10 per day. I suppose the room and board _might_ be worth that. However, charging for it is in terrificly

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            It isn't based on market economics, it is based on the actual cost of food, utilities and supplied bedding etc.

            Recently the ironically named Ministry of Justice tried to argue that merely deciding there had been a miscarriage of justice was not grounds for compensation since the person had not been specifically found "not guilty". Of course they are considered innocent by the law and the only way to get an actual "not guilty" verdict would be to bring another prosecution against them, which is generally imp

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        he get's to pick two jewels from the crown's lower treasure rooms. but he may NOT make eye contact with the queen.

  • Slap? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 27, 2012 @07:54AM (#40789159)

    they have said that the original decision was not made objectively, which can be considered a severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor

    Not really. A severe slap for the orginal judge, maybe, but at most a bit of a raised eyebrow at the Crown Prosecutor. The prosecution isn't supposed to try the case and decide who's guilty. Maybe the case should never have even been brought, but it's the original judge who really messed up severely for not saying so at first instance.

    • Re:Slap? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:11AM (#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.

      • He was prosecuted in the public interest, in an effort to alarm and terrify the general population into being more worried about what they say and do in public because they might be a terrorist.

      • I think the government went out of its way to prosecute this ridiculous case because they want to strengthen the government's ability to monitor and intrude on anything anyone does electronically or otherwise. It's all in the interest of creating totalitarian power, not serving the public in any way, shape or form.
  • BBC coverage (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
  • FTA:

    Today, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, [..], 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."

    When it's no longer clear where your title ends and your name starts, you've definitely found the right profession.

  • I can only imagine how much money was wasted in man-hours on something that never should have went beyond one guy looking at it and saying "He's obviously joking."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      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

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:38AM (#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".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    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.

  • Insane (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andrio (2580551) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:23AM (#40789409)
    The men who went ahead and tried to prosecute this guy are professional men. They get up early, and put on suits. They carry briefcases. They went to college and graduated. Within the entire spectrum of the human race, they are in the top 5% of education and work.

    And they still went ahead with the prosecution of such an obvious joke.

    I weep for the human race.
    • If they were among the top 5% of the population, they wouldn't work for the government but could hold a real job.

    • A lot of the CPS are in fact women. People who deal with the CPS, also, might also draw the line at "they get up early".

      The CPS consists of the lawyers who didn't get a place at a decent firm of solicitors or a good Chambers.

  • Can someone help me parse this bit?

    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.

    What is "it"? Am I missing the bleedin' obvious again?

    • by ledow (319597)

      The Crown Court. The decision it made was not one it should have been able to make.

    • I found this challenging too. I think (caveat: filtered by my middle-American interpretation of English) the "it" refers to the Crown Court.

      As in, "The Crown Court made a decision it had no objective reason to make."

      It made a decision that was not open to it.

      Corrections from across the pond?
      • by ledow (319597)

        My opinion from across the pond agrees.

        Technically, there's nothing wrong or even specifically English about the sentence and the object is perfectly well specified. You just have to read it properly, that's all.

        It's not 100% perfectly clear and is worded slightly oddly, but the context is enough to clarify, I would think. And lots of things are worded oddly when you "speak properly" or work in law.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday July 27, 2012 @08:36AM (#40789571)
    I disagree. I think he made the decision very objectively. He carefully weighed "I'm an overly-aggressive asshole" with "I support security theater over logic when it comes to airports" with "I'll be such a famous anti-terrorist, zero tolerance judge and get famous in the media" and made a logical decision. Of course, all he managed to do was get famous in the media lol. Time to start looking for a new job hopefully since he's proven to be completely incapable of doing his current one.
    • First, the junior judge in the case was a woman. Second, junior judges might well be overawed by the CPS.

      The police didn't want to take action. My Lords of Appeal said there was no case. The case was brought entirely at the instigation of the Crown Prosecution Service and your beef is with them.

  • Wait, there's a "Robin Hood Airport"?

    And we can't even get an "Elvis Presley International Airport" and he was a real guy.

  • '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.

    I've reread this sentence several times and it doesn't make sense to me. If remove the clause "that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character" you're left with "We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court was not open to it."
    The decision was not "open" to what, exactly?

  • Perhaps it is early but... did anyone else read that last line as

    "which can be considered a severe slap for the Clown Prosecutor."

    ?

  • 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.

    The whole "joke" bit just sounds like the usual scumbag escape clause to me, of course it was a joke, it wouldn't look good in court if he said "I made that tweet because I am a self-entitled asshole who threatens senseless violence at the drop of a hat".

    10 to 1 that everyone who defends this guy, is the type who go screaming to the police if someone even looks at them funny

    • Re:A test (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grumbleduke (789126) on Friday July 27, 2012 @10:19AM (#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?

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