A man who was convicted for tweeting he would blow an airport “sky high” has begun his second appeal against the ruling today.
Paul Chambers, 26, of Doncaster, used Twitter on 6 January 2010 to vent his frustration that Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport had been closed due to snow. He was due to fly from the airport to Northern Ireland two weeks after.
His post read: “'Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!”
A week later Mr Chambers was arrested under the Terrorism Act. He was later convicted and fined £1000 for "sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003". In the original ruling, Judge Jonathan Bennett said that the message was of a “menacing nature in the context of the time we live in”.
The 27-year-old accountant, who lost his job as a financial manager after his initial arrest, continues to oppose the conviction and is now in the third year of attempting to overturn the decision.
As the case is the first known example of a British Twitter user being convicted for a post on the site, the issue was hotly debated. High profile users of the social networking site came out in support of Mr Chambers after his conviction, using the top-trending hashtag #twitterjoketrial.
The most vocal of his supporters was Stephen Fry, who offered to pay the £1000 fine outright after the conviction in May 2010. Fry echoed the call after an appeal failed in November 2010, posting: “My offer still stands. Whatever they fine you, I'll pay".
Comedian Al Murray and writer of ‘Father Ted’ Graham Linehan have both been vocal in their opposition to the ruling. The pair visited Paul Chambers in February at a High Court hearing in a show of support.
“The problem is not that it was a joke, but it was a bad joke,” said Linehan. “My first series was full of bad jokes, if we were all to be convicted for bad jokes, we would all be in trouble”.
“This situation is Monty Python,” added Al Murray. “It is absurd, bonkers. It means we cannot post what we want on Twitter, or say what we want - that is incredible to me”.
Celebrity support for Mr Chambers has helped raise close to £30,000 towards his spiraling legal fees.
After an original appeal in September 2010 failed a second appeal in February ended inconclusively when a two-judge court could not agree. After two and a half years the case rests on Mr Chambers’ original tweet, which he has since said was akin to "having a bad day at work and stating that you could murder your boss, I didn't even think about whether it would be taken seriously".