£1,000 fine for trainee accountant who threatened to blow up airport on Twitter

A trainee accountant who posted a message on the micro-blogging website Twitter threatening to blow up an airport was yesterday convicted and fined £1,000.

Paul Chambers, 26, sent the tweet to his 600 followers after discovering that Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport, from where he was due to fly to Ireland, had been closed by snowfall.

The short message, posted on 6 January, read: "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!"

Chambers told the court it was sent in frustration, but the judge at Doncaster Magistrates Court said the tweet was "of a menacing nature in the context of the times we live in". The court was told that Chambers had been due to fly to Ireland to visit a girl he had met on Twitter, and sent the message when he realised his plans could be jeopardised by the weather. He said he did not realise that it could be seen by anyone other than his followers.

But it was spotted by Shaun Duffield, the off-duty manager at the airport. He alerted an airport security manager Steven Armson who said that, although he graded the threat as "non-credible", he had no option but to pass it to the police. Chambers was asked if he understood the airport had to take threats seriously, whatever the context. He replied: "I do now. 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."

Richard Haigh, defending, told the court the tweet about the airport had to be seen in the context of the language and styles of the social networking world. Mr Haigh described it as a "Fawltyesque" outburst. He said the message could possibly be seen as "immature", "tasteless" or "unacceptable", but not criminal. Chambers was found guilty of sending a menacing electronic communication and ordered to pay a £385 fine, a £15 victim's surcharge and £600 costs. He said he plans to appeal.

Last night the case was being widely discussed on Twitter. The girl Chambers had been flying to meet posted a message saying that the conviction meant he was no longer able to qualify as an accountant. Meanwhile, the comedian Stephen Fry offered to pay Chambers' fine for him.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003