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'Twitter joke trial' convict to appeal to High Court

Paul Chambers has opted to appeal his conviction for “menace”, after joking about bombing an English airport on Twitter.

Robin Hood Airport in Nottingham, from where Paul Chambers posted a tweet that attracted the eyes of the law.
Robin Hood Airport in Nottingham, from where Paul Chambers posted a tweet that attracted the eyes of the law.
Image: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

THE MAN WHO LOST his appeal against a conviction of “menace” earlier this month – after he had posted a message on Twitter, joking at how he wanted to blow up his local airport – has decided to appeal his case to the High Court.

Paul Chambers, 27, was arrested in January after tweeting: “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!!”

He was convicted by a magistrates court in Doncaster during the Summer, and two weeks ago lost an appeal to Doncaster Crown Court month, where Judge Jacqueline Davies agreed that the message was “clearly menacing” and declared Chambers an “unimpressive witness”.

Chambers had argued that the measure under which he was prosecuted, a law dating back to the 1930s, was originally intended to outlaw abusive phone calls to “female telephonists in the General Post Office”. He was fined £1,000.

The unsuccessful appeal sparked off considerable ire amongst the wider Twittersphere – including the disappointment of actor Stephen Fry, who offered to pay the entirety of Chambers’ fine and legal costs.

It also sparked off a worldwide Twitter meme, where users – reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s 1960 film – all reposted the message originally posted by Chambers, with the added reference ‘#iamspartacus’.

Now, Chambers has decided to appeal the ruling to the High Court, with representation from a leading human rights lawyer Ben Emmerson QC.

Announcing his decision on Twitter, Chambers – who now lives in Northern Ireland, with the woman to whom the offending tweet was directed – said the challenge was “probably to the detriment of my mental wellbeing”, adding: “It was very tempting to draw a line to be honest, took a long time to weigh it up. I feel like I’m living in a goldfish bowl.”

He committed, however, to fight his appeal “as best I can”.

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Gavan Reilly

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