Twitter bomb joker protest continues Spartacus style

Darren Allan

November 14, 2010

On Thursday, Paul Chambers had his appeal against a conviction for “sending a menacing message” turned down by a judge.

His crime was to have tweeted a joke about blowing Robin Hood airport up when snow threatened to disrupt his travel plans last winter.

His exact tweet was: “Crap! 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!!”

Immediately, there was a ground swell of reaction against the verdict. The judge had reportedly concluded that the tweet was “menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed.”

A statement many people vehemently disagreed with, particularly comedians such as Stephen Fry, Dara O’Briain and David Mitchell. Many members of the public showed their support against the verdict, which lost Chambers his job, and saw him being fined several thousands pounds, and gaining a criminal record.

At first, an online petition was started against the verdict, which gained 3,000 signatures, but then another movement began on Twitter itself. The #IamSpartacus channel was set up, where users replicated Chambers’ original tweet, in a stand up and be counted manner as seen in the epic film Spartacus.

As an Observer piece by Catherine Bennett points out, Chambers’ solicitor noted that anyone who forwards the original tweet could technically be charged with the same offence as he was, “since the CPS has made intention irrelevant to prosecutions under section 127.”

The channel is still very active this morning, with replica tweets or slight variations such as: “I have a dastardly plan that involves Robin Hood airport *strokes white cat*.”

The question is now, given all this reaction and publicity, will Mr Chambers appeal again? He replied to a friend on Twitter who urged him to do so: “Well I’m taking advice right now.”


Comments in chronological order (3 comments)

  1. Rob says:

    “Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed.” lol says the judge…as if judges have got the slightest idea what ordinary people think about anything.

    Yeah, I’m sure alqaeda always give a weeks notice and the opportunity to improve checkin times before they try to blow up airports. What a prat. Any reasonable person reading this text should have realised it was a dumb joke made in frustration at the appalling service provided by our 21st century airports.

  2. Dave says:

    Unfortunately, in this day and age, comments such as these have to be taken at face value. Common sense should have told him there will probably be some return on this. If you are not prepared to take the fallout then don’t make the comments.

    Maybe next time, don’t be so rash to publicly air your thoughts.

    I have no sympathy.

  3. matt says:

    Dave- common sense could have served the judge well too- if the law can’t distinguish a flippant comment made to FRIENDS on Twitter (by a bloke with absolutely no motivation or history suggesting he might actually be in the least bit serious) from a real threat, it is definitely an ass.

    Such laws may be par for the course elsewhere but should not exist in this country. It was a dumb, slightly dramatic, heat of the moment comment but in this example Twitter is the equivalent of a quick rant in the pub to people he knows- hardly a letter to the airport, drafted over a period of time, threatening them directly.

    Even if the judge were correct (100% not) and the message could be considered ‘menacing’, I still don’t get how it follows that background, context, audience and INTENT can be considered irrelevant under this particular law. Why should such a remark be taken at face value? Are we going to let a period of higher terrorist threat turn us into a police state where you can’t utter a word without fear of being grabbed by the thought police?

    I (and no doubt Boris Johnson too) could strangle Bob Crow for all the grief he’s given us with the tube strikes in London but it goes without saying (or atleast it should do to people with an ounce of sense) that the lardy lout’s air way is safe from me and BoJo. Free speech and all that mallarkey. Within reasonable, not *totally unreasonable* limits naturally.

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