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Twitter trial told bomb threat was a joke

A lawyer has told a crown court that a man who said in a post on Twitter that he would blow up Doncaster Airport because it was closed was being 'facetious'
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

A post on Twitter in which a trainee accountant said he would blow up Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport was intended as a joke, the defendant's lawyers said at his appeal on Friday.

Paul Chambers's 6 January tweet was "obviously facetious", barrister Stephen Ferguson said at Doncaster crown court, according to reports. The offending tweet, which related to Chambers's frustration at being unable to fly to Belfast to meet a friend, read: "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!!"

Originally logged by an airport employee searching the internet for references to Robin Hood Airport, the tweet resulted in Chambers's arrest under the Criminal Law Act 1977 for making a bomb hoax. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then charged Chambers under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which makes it an offence to menace someone over a communications network.

Chambers was found guilty and fined £1,000, and is now appealing that decision. The case was adjourned on Friday, and will have to wait until the following week at the earliest.

According to Ferguson, the tone of the tweet made it clear that Chambers was joking and did not intend to menace anyone. "There are at least three exclamation marks. The first to add to the slightly naughty word 'crap'. The last two to the parody of 'to blow the airport sky high'," he is quoted as saying.

The court also heard that an officer who had questioned Chambers upon his arrest recorded that there was no evidence to suggest the tweet was anything more than "a foolish comment" directed only at Chambers's friends. According to reports, the prosecution pointed out that Chambers had earlier sent a direct message to his friend in Northern Ireland saying he would "resort to terrorism" if the airport were closed.

The Guardian journalist Robert Booth tweeted that the court had been asked to consider whether the late poet John Betjeman would have been guilty of menacing people by writing his famous line, "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!".

The case has now been adjourned, with no date set for its resumption.

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