Twitter ‘terror’ threat man begins appeal to quash conviction
A trainee accountant who posted a message on Twitter threatening to blow an airport “sky high” when his flight to Northern Ireland was cancelled has began an appeal against his conviction and sentence, arguing that no one would ever have taken it seriously.
Paul Chambers (26) was found guilty of sending a menacing electronic communication by a district judge at Doncaster Magistrates Court in May.
Chambers, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, 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.
He was ordered to pay a £385 fine, a £15 victim surcharge and £600 costs.
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 s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!”
Chambers 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 that was threatened by the runway closures.
He had been exchanging messages with Crazy Colours on January 6 when he sent the message.
Yesterday, defence barrister Stephen Ferguson said Chambers now lived in Northern Ireland.
“Young love did spring from these tweets and he now lives in the same country as Crazy Colours,” said Mr Ferguson, arguing the conviction should be quashed because the tweet was 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 his client had any intention to threaten anyone or that he thought there was any risk of misinterpreting the tweet.
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.
The barrister said the tweet was nothing more than “facetious parody”.
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.
Judge Jacqueline Davies said the hearing could not be completed yesterday and adjourned the case to a date to be fixed.