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Professor-rat (buttdarling) wrote,
@ 2012-07-28 17:47:00
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    Sith judgement struck out
    463 Comments
    In an important High Court ruling the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, said that the message posted online by Paul Chambers could not be considered “menacing”.
    He pointed out that no one who saw the tweet thought it was a genuine bomb threat, and it was not sent to airport staff.
    The joke about “blowing the airport sky high” was made in frustration at flights being cancelled because of the snow, and was only spotted five days later by an off-duty security manager.
    In the wake of the ruling supporters led by Murray, a comedian, criticised the authorities for pursuing the case.
    After former Home Office advisers warned people to be careful what they wrote on the micro-blogging site, Murray, who had been in court, dexcribed the actions as akin to those from the East German secret police.

    "The truth is how could it possibly constitute a threat to anybody is mind boggling," Murray, who admitted he doesn't think much before using Twitter, told BBC Radio 4's The World at One.
    "What you do (is write) with discretion. He was plucked from obscurity and plucked to notoriety for saying something along the lines of 'I will kill my boss with the work he gave me today'. It is the same sort of situation.
    "Because I am high profile I share a fair bit of abuse on Twitter as well but that is alright."
    He added: "The thing about free speech is that it is a way of finding out about what people are like. If someone is rude to you, you know they are a rude person, if they say something in a jokey way you know they are joking.
    "That is the great thing about free speech. Otherwise who is calling the Stasi? It feels East German this idea of that 'you better watch what you're going to say, be careful what you say'."

    Outside court he said that while he was a "big fan of absurdity" this took "the biscuit".
    He added: "In 100 years there will be an operetta about this - about how ridiculous we were at the start of the 21st century.
    "Paul was doing what we all do sometimes in the heat of the moment. There are 10 million people on Twitter. Freedom of speech is something we take for granted in this country.
    "This judgment affected the freedom of speech of 10 million people, not just Paul. That's why it's so important. The judgment shows this should never have come to trial and has been a terrific waste of money and time."
    Stephen Fry, the comedian, ended a sel-imposed "holiday" from Twitter to describe it as "complete vindication".
    He wrote to more than 2.5 million followers: "Pops head up quickly: complete vindication and victory for Paul Chambers in #twitterjoketrial. Well done @DavidAllenGreen and team. Bye!"

    Earlier Lord Chief Justice, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams.
    “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,”
    After the judges overturned Mr Chambers’s conviction for sending “a message of a menacing character” contrary to the 2003 Communications Act, the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not take the case any further.
    A CPS spokesman said: “We accept the court’s reasoning and consider this to be the end of the matter.”
    Louise Mensch, the Conservative MP and member of the Culture Select Committee, wrote on Twitter after the hearing on Friday morning: “CPS owe my constituent @pauljchambers and the country a huge apology for a shameful prosecution that should never have been brought.
    “Two years of a man's life, stress and massive public costs wasted over an obvious joke. It is for Parliament to investigate actions here.
    “Whether it is the Justice or Home Affairs Select Cttee, the CPS and this decision should be investigated on Parlt return.”
    Mr Chambers, of Corby, Northamptonshire, added: “I am relieved, vindicated - it is ridiculous it ever got this far.
    "I want to thank everyone who has helped, including everyone on Twitter."
    Then 26 and a “well-educated” man of “previous good character”, he had been due to fly to Belfast in January 2010 to see a woman he had met through Twitter, the popular social networking service that allows users to post public messages of up to 140 characters.
    But the week before, poor weather led to the closure of the airport from which he was due to fly and in response he tweeted: “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s--- together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!”
    The message was seen by his 600-odd followers but would also have been visible to anyone who searched Twitter for any of the words used.
    Five days later, a security manager was looking for tweets about his airport when he spotted Mr Chambers’s message. He thought it was a “non-credible” threat because it included the user’s real name but he passed it to police regardless.
    South Yorkshire police arrested Mr Chambers on suspicion of involvement in a bomb hoax a week after he posted the tweet, and although officers concluded it was just a “foolish comment” for “only his close friends to see”, the CPS charged him.
    He was fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs at Doncaster Magistrates' Court in May 2010 and later that year a Crown Court judge dismissed his appeal on the grounds that the message was “clearly menacing”.
    What became known as the “Twitter joke trial” garnered a huge amount of public interest, and support from celebrities such as Stephen Fry, as users of the service feared it meant anyone risked prosecution for comments taken the wrong way.
    It was claimed that even John Betjeman would be in trouble for writing: “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough.”
    But the High Court ruling will be taken as a sign that tweets must be seen as containing a genuine threat if they are to be considered menacing and so in breach of the law.
    The judges said: “We should perhaps add that for those who have the inclination to use “Twitter” for the purpose, Shakespeare can be quoted unbowdlerised, and with Edgar, at the end of King Lear, they are free to speak not what they ought to say, but what they feel.”

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