Alex Massie

The Epic Justice #Fail in the #Twitterjoketrial

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Remember Paul Chambers, the poor sod tried and convicted for making a joke on Twitter? (See previous posts here.) Well, he lost his appeal this afternoon:

Paul Chambers, a 27-year-old accountant whose online courtship with another tweeter led to the "foolish prank", had hoped that a crown court would dismiss his conviction and £1,000 fine without a full hearing.

But Judge Jacqueline Davies instead handed down a devastating finding at Doncaster which dismissed Chambers' appeal on every count. After reading out his Tweet – "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!!" – she found it contained menace and that Chambers must have known that it might be taken seriously.

[...] Judge Davies told the court that definitions of menace included "a great inconvenience" and drew on previous case law to uphold Chambers's conviction by Doncaster magistrates. She said: "The words in the message speak for themselves and they were sent at a time when the security threat to this country was substantial."

Well, on the basis of what's been reported so far Judge Davis should be ashamed of herself and her reasoning. There have been umpteen occasions during this rigmarole when someone could have decided that it only took an ounce of common sense to appreciate that this was a pointless trial that was never in the public interest and, in the end, amounted to the serial persecution of Mr Chambers for the crime of making a joke in public that, even if you accept this was a matter for the police, was in anycase a victimless "crime".

The whole ghastly farrago - which, incidentally, has cost Mr Chambers two jobs - has been disgraceful and all connected with the prosecution and conviction deserve nothing but scorn. Of course, the more pointless the case the better and since Chambers was convicted once we can't be surprised that his appeal has been denied. Some stupidity is impervious to reason or common sense. It's just a shame it's so prevalent in what, for the sake of irony, we term our criminal justice system.

Changing the culture that insists upon this kind of prosecution is one of the biggest good things that could happen to Britain. So obviously don't count on it happening.

Also: Paul Chambers and his legal team want, I think, to take this to the High Court. And rightly so. But they need money to get there. You can donate to the legal fund here. Please do.

UPDATE: See Heresy Corner for more good stuff on this. Also Charon QC.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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