Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: It's about time authorities showed some sense

Paul Chambers has paid very dearly for his ill-advised quip on Twitter that he wanted to blow up an airport.

The joke was made after his flight was delayed by snow. It was the sort of comment someone might make in a fit of frustration, but electronic communications are taken more seriously than an off-the-cuff spoken remark to a friend.

He was prosecuted under anti-terrorism laws, and lost his job. He then came to Northern Ireland to start over and to be closer to his girlfriend, but lost his job here too when he told his employer, a local council, that he was due to appear in court to appeal the original conviction.

Clearly Paul was stupid to make the original comment - a Twit, possibly. And police, having being made aware of the comment, had a duty to investigate. But that is where everything went too far. It should have been obvious fairly quickly that he was not a would-be terrorist, and that his comment was a joke and not a serious threat to national security.

The Northern Ireland council that has sacked him before his appeal is heard this week is also guilty of over-reaction. What if his conviction is overturned? An innocent man has then been penalised twice for what was obviously never a serious offence in the first place.

In these times of heightened awareness of terrorism, it is quite proper for the intelligence services and police to take all possible threats seriously. That happened with the arrest of several North African men during the Papal visit to England.

But common sense also had to enter the equation. No-one suspects Paul of being a potential terrorist, either wanting to, or capable of, blowing up an airport. He should have been given a severe warning and let go. Instead, heavy-handed officialdom has led to him losing two jobs, and now wondering if he can ever rebuild his life.


From Belfast Telegraph