Are these really the best anti-terrorism measures we have?
Friday 12 November 2010.
It all started with a tweet from an accountant called Paul Chambers. Having missed a flight from Doncaster to Belfast in January he vented his frustration via Twitter with these now famous words:
"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!!"
Not being a tweeter of any great degree of fame, he no doubt expected his comment to vanish into oblivion along with most of the other millions of tweets made by people every day. Alas, not so! By some inexplicable means his tweet came to the attention of the authorities and a prosecution against Chambers was launched. According to the Guardian Newspaper: ’Chambers was controversially prosecuted under a law aimed at nuisance calls – originally to protect "female telephonists at the Post Office" in the 1930s – rather than specific bomb hoax legislation, which requires stronger evidence of intent.’
In spite of the fact that the 27 year old accountant had never shown any desire to terrorise anyone, the judge nevertheless found his tweet to be "menacing in its content and obviously so." Chambers ended up with fine and legal costs amounting to a hefty £3,600.
Celebrity tweeter, Stephen Fry quickly leapt to Chambers’ defence and offered to pay the whole lot for him. But that’s not the end of the story. Today the twitterverse is full of people repeating the original tweet or variations of it (I rather like @DrSamuelJohnson’s: "Ordure! Robin Hood’s Port is clos’d! Seven Days hence I shall run you through with a PIKESTAFF!"
Most tweets on this theme are tagged with #IAmSpartacus for reasons which will become apparent if you watch the video below.
In principle, I suppose, all these tweeters are equally guilty. I think the British legal system may be kept rather busy prosecuting them all. I can’t help thinking, though, that their time might be better spent, well, catching terrorists...