The Divisional Court this morning allowed the appeal of Paul Chambers against his conviction by the Crown Court in Doncaster in relation to a joke made on Twitter. In January 2010, Chambers jokingly threatened on Twitter to blow Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport “sky high”. He was subsequently convicted by Doncaster Magistrates’ Court of making a menacing statement via a public communications network contrary to section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. The conviction was subsequently upheld by the Doncaster Crown Court.
The Lord Chief Justice held that, taking account of the context, it had not been objectively open to the Crown Court to conclude that the tweet had a menacing character.
Eric Metcalfe acted on behalf of ARTICLE 19 which made written submissions in the appeal. The executive director of ARTICLE 19 Agnes Callamard said:
“This is a victory for common sense and freedom of expression online. The right to express ideas and information includes the right to make jokes, even if others may find them unfunny, distasteful or even shocking. The lower courts exaggerated the Tweet and made it into a threat, when it was clearly a joke made in jest. We welcome the Divisional Court’s ruling for the protection it gives to online speech and the freedom to tweet in particular”