Man loses appeal over 'menacing' airport Tweet

Alistair Keely,Pa
Thursday 11 November 2010 18:18

A trainee accountant who posted a message on Twitter threatening to blow an airport "sky high" was today facing a £3,000 bill after he lost his appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Paul Chambers, 27, was said to be "disappointed and taking legal advice" after his appeal was dismissed by a judge at Doncaster Crown Court.

Earlier this year he was found guilty of sending a menacing electronic communication by a district judge at Doncaster Magistrates' Court.

He argued that no-one would ever have taken it seriously and launched legal action to clear his name.

However, Judge Jacqueline Davies, who was sitting with two magistrates today, ruled the message was menacing.

She said: "We take the view an ordinary person seeing this would see it in that way and be alarmed.

"The airport staff did see it and were sufficiently concerned to report it."

She described the defendant as an "unimpressive witness."

She added: "We find it impossible to accept that anyone living in this country, in the current climate of terrorist threats, would not be aware of the consequences of their actions in making such a statement."

Chambers, from Northern Ireland, claimed he sent the Tweet to his 600 "followers" in a moment of frustration after nearby Robin Hood Airport was closed by snow in January.

Following his conviction he was ordered to pay a £385 fine and £15 victim surcharge. Today, unemployed Chambers was also ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £2,600.

The Tweet he sent in the early hours of January 6 said: "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!"

At an earlier hearing Stephen Ferguson, for Chambers, argued that the conviction should be quashed because the Tweet was simply not "menacing".

Mr Ferguson said that even the police officer investigating the case branded it a "foolish comment posted on Twitter as a joke for only his close friends to see".

He said the prosecution had failed to prove that his client had any intention to threaten anyone or that he thought there was any risk someone would interpret the Tweet in this way.

The barrister said the final ground of appeal was that Twitter was not a "public electronic communications network" within the meaning of the relevant law.

The court heard that the Tweet was discovered when an airport manager, who was not a Twitter member, searched for "Robin Hood Airport" on the Twitter site.

Mr Ferguson told the court that if Chambers's Tweet was considered menacing within the meaning of the law, then so could so many other statements made in all manner of social situations.

Chambers was arrested at his workplace at a car distribution firm in Sandtoft, near Doncaster, where he was a finance supervisor.

His trial was told he had lost his job because of the prosecution.

Chambers told the district judge in May he had been planning to go to Belfast on January 15 to meet a woman he had met through Twitter who has been identified in court only by her Twitter alias, Crazy Colours.

It was this trip from Robin Hood Airport which was threatened by the closure of the runways.

He had been exchanging messages with Crazy Colours on January 6 when he sent the message to all his followers which provoked the prosecution.

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