Stephen Fry turns out for Twitter Joke Trial appeal
Paul Chambers, who jokes about blowing up a snowbound airport, gets celebrity backing at High Court
THE latest stage in Paul Chambers's two-and-a-half year battle against his conviction for sending what the legal system deemed a "menacing tweet" began in the High Court in London today, with celebrity supporters Stephen Fry and comedian Al Murray on hand as the 27-year-old unemployed trainee accountant sought to clear his name in what has become known as the Twitter Joke Trial.
Chambers's 'crime' was to send a tweet in January 2010 which lamented the fact that his local airport in Yorkshire was closed by snow while he was hoping to catch a flight to meet a friend.
"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!" Chambers wrote to his 600 followers, an action which was to land him with a £385 fine, £600 in costs and a criminal record after a trial at Doncaster Magistrates Court in May 2010.
Chambers's review came before the lord chief justice, Mr Justice Owen, and Mr Justice Griffith Williams.
Chambers’s barrister, John Cooper QC, argued that the tweet was facetious and an obvious parody, and that the conviction against Chambers was the equivalent of the legal system using "a steamroller to crack a nut".
He also said that the initial tweet was not a threat, and could not be described as menacing under the 2003 Electronic Communications Act which was used to prosecute Chambers. As Al Murray pointed out on Twitter, the website did not even exist when that legislation was brought onto the statute book.
Two earlier appeals against the conviction in September 2010 and February 2012 have already failed, although at the latter hearing the court ordered for the appeal to be rerun - hence today's proceedings. A fund to pay for Chambers's defence has already raised £30,000, with the support of such Twitter luminaries as Fry, Murray and Graham Linehan.
Closing today's session, the lord chief justice remarked upon an "interesting day in court" and said that a ruling would be delivered within weeks.