Here’s a question – what would you think if this came up on your twitter timeline?
"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!!"
Would you sympathise with the frustration of a delayed traveler or would you see it as a real threat of a terrorist attack? Well to anyone with a bit of common sense the answer is obvious.
Sadly that has not been the case for the unfortunate Paul Chambers who tweeted that statement back in 2010. He was charged and convicted of sending a public electronic message that was "..of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003". He was duly fined and ordered to pay the costs. And he does now have a criminal record.
I have gone on before about the need to be careful what we tweet. There can be severe consequences for those think that they can send grossly offensive material from the safety of their own homes –
But this case really makes our criminal justice system look a bit ridiculous. Would any reasonable person reading those words consider them to add up to a menacing threat?
Mr. Chambers’ case is before the Appeal Courts today –
His case has generated a lot of media interest mainly because of the celebrities who have backed him; including Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross.
Let’s hope that the judges see the distinction between the sort of conduct from which we need to be protected and what is really an ill-judged joke!