Paul Chambers, 26, was planning a trip to Ireland. His flight was scheduled to leave Robin Hood Airport in mid-January.
Now, cast your mind back a few months if you will. Remember the pandemonium caused by the snow just after new year. Well, things got so bad in the north of the country that they actually closed Robin Hood Airport on 6 January.
Frustrated that his Ireland holiday plans might have to be cancelled, Paul tweeted his chums: “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!”
As the Guardian explains, he was arrested by anti-terror police a week later, after an off-duty manager at Robin Hood airport, near Doncaster, found the message while doing an unrelated computer search.
The airport’s operations were unaffected apparently, since they classified the post as ‘not credible’, but they were obliged to tell the police, who took action.
They arrested Paul, impounded his iPhone and two computers, and charged him with sending a public electronic message that was ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character’ contrary to the Communications Act 2003.
The case proceeded to trial before a magistrate where Paul’s solicitor described the episode as a ‘Basil Fawlty outburst, which was immature, tasteless and unacceptable but not criminal’.
Paul told the judge: “I apologise for whatever consequences have happened, but at the time that was not my intention at all. It did not cross my mind that Robin Hood would ever look at Twitter or take it seriously, because it was innocuous hyperbole.”
District judge Jonathan Bennett failed to see the funny side, however, and fined Paul £1000.
The decision has been widely condemned as “absurd” by civil liberties campaigners. And Paul has now won the backing of several prominent lawyers, including Jack of Kent blogger Allen Green and leading defence barrister Stephen Ferguson, who have agreed to help him fight the conviction pro bono. The appeal hearing is scheduled later this summer.
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