“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!”
That’s the tweet that got trainee accountant Paul Chambers a criminal record, earning him the title of first British citizen to be convicted for something he tweeted. However, Chambers isn’t going down without a fight, and has challenged the conviction in the UK high court.
In mid-2010, Chambers was preparing to meet his girlfriend at Robin Hood airport in Doncaster, UK, and was frustrated with the snowstorm that had closed the airport. He argues that the above tweet is pretty clearly a joke. He wrote when he was first charged that it was certainly “ill-advised… [but] I didn’t even think about whether it would be taken seriously.”
However, it was taken seriously. Five days after clicking “Tweet”, policemen showed up at Chambers’ work and hauled him off in the back of a squad car.
Initially arrested for making a bomb threat, Chambers ended up being charged with the offence of sending a menacing message under the 2003 communications act, a criminal offence.
He has since been charged with the crime and required to pay a fine of more than $1,000, but has now taken his case to the high court to appeal.
The Guardian reports that Chambers was first found guilty by magistrates, causing him to lose his job. He brought the case to the crown court in September 2010, but he was again found guilty.
Since then, actor Stephen Fry has come out in support of Chambers, and other celebrities and citizens have banded together in support of his appeal.
Now, it’s up to the high court to determine if a joke about a bomb made on Twitter is really just a joke… or if it’s a criminal offence.