A trainee accountant who posted a message on Twitter threatening to blow an airport “sky high” before he was due to fly to Northern Ireland has been found guilty of sending a menacing electronic communication.
Paul Chambers (26) claimed he sent the Tweet to his 600 “followers” in a moment of frustration after Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire was closed by snow in January.
He said he had been planning to go to Belfast on January 15 to meet a woman he had met through Twitter, identified in court only by her Twitter alias, Crazy Colours.
But a district judge at Doncaster Magistrates Court ruled yesterday the Tweet was “of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live”.
Chambers was ordered to pay a £385 fine, a £15 victims surcharge and £600 costs.
The Tweet he sent in the early hours of January 6 said: “C**p! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s**t together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!”
Chambers told Doncaster Magistrates' Court: “I was disappointed and frustrated that the airport had been closed.
“I just sent out a message to Twitter.
“My followers had been following how I was going to fly out to Northern Ireland and knew how much I was looking forward to it.”
He said he was just “venting his frustration”.
But Chambers agreed he sent a message to Crazy Colours a few hours earlier which said: “I was thinking that if it does I've decided that I'm going to resort to terrorism.”
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 — referring to the rants of the TV hotelier Basil Fawlty.
He said the message could possibly be seen as “immature”, “tasteless” or “unacceptable”, but not criminal.
But district judge Jonathan Bennett found Chambers guilty of sending a message by means of a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003.
The judge said: “I am therefore satisfied, so that I am sure, that the defendant sent the message via Twitter and it was of a menacing nature in the context of the times in which we live.”
Chambers confirmed he was considering an appeal.