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"Bomb Threat" Tweet Conviction Overturned By UK Appeals Court

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the hope-he-sends-some-celebratory-tweets dept.

Twitter 103

New submitter Kupfernigk writes "Paul Chambers was the man who was convicted (in England) of a terrorist offense based on a tweet threatening to 'blow up' Robin Hood Airport because they couldn't get snow cleared. Despite the fact that it was obviously a (feeble) joke, the Crown Prosecution Service actually went ahead with a prosecution and were able to convince a junior judge sitting with magistrates. The senior judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, said 'We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it. On this basis, the appeal against conviction must be allowed.' In effect, they have said that the original decision was not made objectively, which can be considered a severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor."

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and... (4, Funny)

oPless (63249) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789123)

A well deserved slap too.

Re:and... (3, Funny)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789787)

Where is this slap applied to? Back of the neck, or the bottom....or the left chin, like in the "Rock'N'Rolla" movie..

not a slap, more like water off a duck's back (1)

waterbear (190559) | more than 2 years ago | (#40796121)

Well I wish it was a slap, but:

(a) they point to the fact that two courts found the case merited a conviction, and indicate that this vindicates their original decision to prosecute:

"Following our decision to charge Mr Chambers, both the magistrates' court and the crown court, in upholding his conviction, agreed that his message had the potential to cause real concern to members of the public, such as those travelling through the airport during the relevant time," it said in a statement http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19009344/ [bbc.co.uk] ,

and
(b) whoever decided to bring the case probably still has that box ticked, that quota reached, or whatever else it takes to give a CPS bureaucrat a feeling of job satisfaction -- I'm afraid.

-wb-

Common Sense prevailed (1)

gmanterry (1141623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789125)

Yea!!

Re:Common Sense prevailed (3, Interesting)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789525)

Not for long I'll bet. The only thing we can be sure about is that the crown prosecutor will be a little more careful in selecting scapegoats from now on. The War on Terror is an ongoing exercise in balancing what the executive arm and its organs can get away with and maximising the state of fear created in the public mind.

Re:Common Sense prevailed (1)

The Askylist (2488908) | more than 2 years ago | (#40791979)

This case was brought under the last Labour government - and it is well known that the self-righteous lefties have no sense of humour or of proportion.

Only under the totalitarian comrades would such a case be brought - the problem now is that we have a CPS full of part-trained 'ooman rights idiots for the foreseeable future.

Re:Common Sense prevailed (2)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40792063)

Are you fucking kidding me? The Prevention of Terrorism Act was rewritten twice by Thatcher's government and was renewed every single year regardless of who was in power. The Tories nailed their colours to the mast as the party to vote for if you wanted to get tough on crime and tough on terrorism. They were the most totalitarian of the lot.

List of Blair's most totalitarian laws (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40793389)

I'm not a Tory or even a LibDem but are you oblivious to Blair's totalitarian laws?

Civil Contingencies Act Schedule 2 is the same as Hitler's Enabling Act by which he gained absolute power. In the event o a minor emergency, absolute power can be claimed by ministers.
Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act, dubbed Abolition of Parliament Act by the media as it could do that without debate in Parliament.
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act -- unlimited internet surveillance (recent internet surveillance attempts have just been about getting the ISP to pay for data storage). Also made it illegal for you to not hand over your private key even if you forgot it (latter repealed by coalition).
Serious Crime Act -- actually passed by Brown. This isn't even thoughtcrime punishment. Get this: even if no crime is committed or even thought about you can still be punished (banishment etc) for inadvertently being in a position to facilitate a crime. It's like Wrong Place Wrong Time, only it's Wrong Place All The Time.
Numerous 'anti-terror' and 'police' acts that allowed random stop and search, kicking your door in without a warrant, taking your DNA upon spurious arrest, banning protest within a mile of Parliament.
Identity Cards Act -- forcing anyone who wanted a passport to submit to iris scanning and fingerprinting, along with giving their bank details. Creation of a Stasi 2.0 database with records for every single adult in the country.

There are many many others.

Blair had two people locked up for reading out the names of the Iraqi dead at the Cenotaph.
Brown, not to be outdone, had Shadow Minister Damian Green arrested for doing his job.

Re:List of Blair's most totalitarian laws (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40796601)

He said "only" Labour would introduce draconian laws. I refuted his point. Yours is irrelevant.

Re:List of Blair's most totalitarian laws (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40797039)

Clearly, you're a brainwashed Labour crony who can't even acknowledge that what I wrote is fact.

Furthermore all these laws are still on the statute book and the perilous state of Britain's constitution needs to be public knowledge.

Re:Common Sense prevailed (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 2 years ago | (#40792177)

And if a bomb did go off, people would be complaining for not reacting to this.

Re:Common Sense prevailed (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 2 years ago | (#40792487)

Yeah that's the thing about crime, see. You have to wait for it to actually happen before you can start accusing people of doing it.

Madness! (1)

warrax_666 (144623) | more than 2 years ago | (#40795597)

That's ridiculous! We have thoughtcrime now, see?

Best Quote Ever (5, Funny)

Infiniti2000 (1720222) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789129)

"It's Twitter, remember, not the pub!"

Re:Best Quote Ever (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790875)

As someone who was in The Sussex Arms in Covent Garden in early october 1992, I think you should be more concerned about terroristic activities in pubs than on websites where almost everyone talks bollocks all the time. (And also underground trains, thanks to a 1991 event.)

Severe slap my ass. (5, Insightful)

NettiWelho (1147351) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789141)

Its not severe until the Crown Prosecutor gets fired and jailtime.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (2)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789349)

Any idea if the guy even gets compensation and the costs and fine he had to pay back?

I expect for the amount of damage this did to his career etc. he should deserve a fairly hefty compensation package.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789453)

The rules about compensation generally are designed so as to give them as little as possible. They even charge you board and lodging if you were in prison and are subsequently cleared and given compensation.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (3, Insightful)

David Chappell (671429) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790053)

The rules about compensation generally are designed so as to give them as little as possible. They even charge you board and lodging if you were in prison and are subsequently cleared and given compensation.

Interesting. How much exactly is lodging in a prison cell and board in a prison cafeteria worth on the open market? I would think the figure is close to zero.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790193)

Couldn't give you exact figures, but I've seen values of around £45k to £50k for 18 months in prison.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790429)

Do you have a source for that? Not being hostile, genuinely interested and haven't heard of anything like this!

Re:Severe slap my ass. (1)

David Chappell (671429) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790991)

Couldn't give you exact figures, but I've seen values of around £45k to £50k for 18 months in prison.

That is probably the costs paid by the state to keep someone in prison. Here is a news story about someone who was forced to pay the room-and-board fee: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-505428/Victim-false-rape-claim-pay-12-500-bed-board-jail.html [dailymail.co.uk]

He received £252,500 in compensation for three years and four months and paid £12,500 for room and board. So they charged him about £10 per day. I suppose the room and board _might_ be worth that. However, charging for it is in terrificly bad taste.

I don't know how the £252,500 in compensation was computed, but if we figure that he should be treated as a state employee working 16 hours a day (24 hours minus eight hours sleep) without weekends or holidays and we pay him twice the UK minimum wage, then we arrive at a similiar figure.

I think a newspaper or TV channel could write some interesting stories about this. They could contact the board of prisons and tell them that they want to send resturant and hotel critics to their facilities. They could then go out and try to find room and board of similiar quality in a neighbourhood with similiar levels of violence with a similiar level of friendly service and find out how much it costs. Who knows, the burocrats might decide that the ensuing mockery is not worth the tiny (from a government's perspective) amount they get out of this.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40793101)

It isn't based on market economics, it is based on the actual cost of food, utilities and supplied bedding etc.

Recently the ironically named Ministry of Justice tried to argue that merely deciding there had been a miscarriage of justice was not grounds for compensation since the person had not been specifically found "not guilty". Of course they are considered innocent by the law and the only way to get an actual "not guilty" verdict would be to bring another prosecution against them, which is generally impossible unless new evidence comes to light. Fortunately they lost and will now have to pay up.

In this case the guy lost his job and won't get it back. Allegations generally destroy your life and there is no compensation if you are found innocent, unless you were wrongly jailed. The argument is that otherwise the police and CPS would be constantly paying out and unwilling to prosecute unless they were certain of conviction, but it means people have their lives destroyed by bungled investigations and what amounts of deliberately misleading the court with no recourse.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790699)

he get's to pick two jewels from the crown's lower treasure rooms. but he may NOT make eye contact with the queen.

Re:Severe slap my ass. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791013)

He'll get his legal costs back. The fine won't have been paid. He won't get any other compensation.

Slap? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789159)

they have said that the original decision was not made objectively, which can be considered a severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor

Not really. A severe slap for the orginal judge, maybe, but at most a bit of a raised eyebrow at the Crown Prosecutor. The prosecution isn't supposed to try the case and decide who's guilty. Maybe the case should never have even been brought, but it's the original judge who really messed up severely for not saying so at first instance.

Re:Slap? (4, Insightful)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789265)

The prosecution isn't supposed to try the case and decide who's guilty.

Absolutely.

What might be worth considering, however, is that the prosecution does have a duty to determine whether bringing a case is in the public interest:

In 1951, Sir Hartley Shawcross, who was then Attorney General, made the classic statement on public interest: "[i]t has never been the rule in this country - I hope it never will be - that suspected criminal offences must automatically be the subject of prosecution". He added that there should be a prosecution: "wherever it appears that the offence or the circumstances of its commission is or are of such a character that a prosecution in respect thereof is required in the public interest" (House of Commons Debates, Volume 483, 29 January 1951). This approach has been endorsed by Attorneys General ever since.

From "The Code for Crown Prosecutors [cps.gov.uk] ," at paragraph 10 of section 4.

The article in the summary provides that:

The judges noted there was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest any of the followers of the ”tweet“, or anyone else who may have seen it posted on Mr Chambers' timeline, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism was real, even minimally alarming. (My emphasis)

Following the test set out in the Code, and taking into account the common public interest factors for and against prosecution, I am surprised that this prosecution would pass the public interest test, given a lack of evidence of harm, or of anyone finding it menacing.

Re:Slap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790457)

Sure, but as any serving Police officer will tell you, whether the CPS depends to charge (let alone prosecute) a person is largely a random gamble. One CPS solicitor will charge, another will no-charge, and yet a third will demure and ask for more information before decided one way or the other.

Police and judges would be better off rolling a D20 to decide damage than rely on the CPS.

Re:Slap? (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#40792183)

He was prosecuted in the public interest, in an effort to alarm and terrify the general population into being more worried about what they say and do in public because they might be a terrorist.

Re:Slap? (1)

LastDawnOfMan (1851550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40795139)

I think the government went out of its way to prosecute this ridiculous case because they want to strengthen the government's ability to monitor and intrude on anything anyone does electronically or otherwise. It's all in the interest of creating totalitarian power, not serving the public in any way, shape or form.

From the code of the Peasant: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40795811)

Eh, the Nibs are out'a fuckin' 'and agin... you gotcher sword, Jon Tailor? You, Garrick Pubmaster? Right, right, good-o. Let's go chop the blighter's 'eads off. Again.

BBC coverage (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789169)

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (5, Funny)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789185)

FTA:

Today, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, [..], said: ”We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it."

When it's no longer clear where your title ends and your name starts, you've definitely found the right profession.

Re:Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (3, Funny)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789709)

Oh man, Igor Judge, Baron Judge [wikipedia.org] is one of the better names for a judge in history. He could be a comic-book character with that name!

Re:Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791727)

Re:Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40792205)

The funny thing is that "Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge" is indeed correct, not a typo, no redundancy.

Severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789201)

While the crown prosecutor may be an idiot, crown prosecutors don't put people in jail - police & judges do.

How about a severe slap for the judge who convicted this poor schlub?

Re:Severe slap for the Crown Prosecutor??? (1)

Builder (103701) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790163)

I blame the CPS far more than I do the police. The police make an arrest - the CPS decide whether to pursue a charge or not.

Has the Commonwealth lost common sense? (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789213)

I can only imagine how much money was wasted in man-hours on something that never should have went beyond one guy looking at it and saying "He's obviously joking."

Re:Has the Commonwealth lost common sense? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789353)

Well, I think the UK anti-terrorism law that criminalized certain forms of speech was only passed as recently as 2006, so the prosecution probably wants to rack up some convictions using it even though such instances of public encouragement of terroristic acts are exceedingly rare.

Re:Has the Commonwealth lost common sense? (1, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789403)

Too many, the UK has plenty of serious issues that are truly pressing. But sometimes, the crown likes to "go out if it's way" just to show that it can and piss all over people. It's not smart, but considering how fast the UK is sliding towards a police state? It's something to pay attention to. Arbitrary repression through the courts, instead of common sense prosecution. I'd post some truly horrific stories from some of my now canuck buddies(UK-expats), but they'd probably get traced back to particular individuals, and that would be bad. Living in fear of the government and country that you're not even a citizen of anymore, should say something.

Re:Has the Commonwealth lost common sense? (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789599)

Are you afraid to speak your mind because something similar may happen to you?

If so, I guess this is not considered money "wasted" but "invested".

Extradite him to USA (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789251)

Maybe he can be extradited to USA to face proper conviction after a brief tour in Guantanamo?
He's probably wearing an electronic wrist watch that can be used as a detonator, so he can easily be convicted, like the other people USA is torturing there.

Re:Extradite him to USA (3, Funny)

Tapewolf (1639955) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789481)

Maybe he can be extradited to USA to face proper conviction after a brief tour in Guantanamo?

The Crown Prosecutor? Sounds like a plan.

Re:Extradite him to USA (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790393)

Why? Which company did he upset?

Re:Extradite him to USA (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40791927)

Probably The Peel Group, which is "the largest property investment company in the United Kingdom" and runs the airport targeted by his joke.

Look (0, Troll)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789391)

Complain about anything you want in a free society.

But the concept of freedom of speech does NOT apply to:

1. talk about killing someone specifically
2. talk about blowing something up specifically

If you don't understand why, you are pretty stupid.

Everything has its limits. EVERYTHING. You don't shout fire in a crowded theatre. You don't threaten to kill or maim or bomb. You don't publish your ex-wife's nude photos, etc.: there are actually LIMITS on what you can do or say in a free society. Those limits are where your "free speech" results in real harm to other individuals.

Plus, much of the people whining that no one can take a joke any more will be whining about why the police didn't follow up on the public comments of the next psycho who shoots up a mall or bombs a bus terminal, comments made before he did those atrocities.

The concept of freedom does not include the concept of freedom from responsibility.

Now mod me as troll, because I don't tow the ridiculously naive and cluelessly idealistic slashdot party line on "free speech".

Re:Look (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789491)

There is a clear and substantial difference between "Following up" on something someone says and "Pointlessly dragging through the courts at great expense to the taxpayer someone who demonstrably hasn't done anything threatening, disruptive or illegal".

The guy shouldn't have even been arrested, at worst he should have been questioned by police and it quickly established that he didn't pose any threat. At which point he should have been released without charge, perhaps with a warning that doing what he did is likely to get the police interested in him and so isn't a great idea.

Re:Look (1)

Jacksgotskills (2682165) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789575)

I don't really see why tweeting is taken so seriously. Something that can be posted from anywhere at any time with little barrier, on the spur of the moment, should not be taken seriously. At All. A few words in text and it's the end of the world is it..

He was questioned by the police (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790107)

They didn't take it seriously. Outside London and Birmingham, our police forces are pretty sensible. This was entirely down to the CPS.

Re:Look (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790353)

"without charge"

perhaps better with just a fine to cover the cost of investigating his idiotic ass.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790925)

You know they employ and pay those people anyway? It's not like they were all working overtime to deal with his case. I suppose that brings up the question of whether there's so much crime in the UK that the entire legal system is saturated with backlogs and his case prevented work being done on other cases in a timely manner. One can't help wonder who should be considered the idiot if this is the case.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790597)

At which point he should have been released without charge

See now here's the problem, and one most people aren't aware of: the Police no longer get to decide whether to charge a person or not. They have to ask the CPS, who make the decision.

So this is all the fault of the CPS.

Re:Look (5, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789545)

Everything has its limits.

Only if you put limits on it.

Those limits are where your "free speech" results in real harm to other individuals.

Unlike in this case!

When you mindlessly apply these laws to people who clearly didn't intend to do any harm, you end up harming innocent people, degrading respect for the law, and wasting taxpayer money.

Plus, much of the people whining that no one can take a joke any more will be whining about why the police didn't follow up on the public comments of the next psycho who shoots up a mall or bombs a bus terminal, comments made before he did those atrocities.

No, because I don't worry about unlikely events, and I don't believe that people who are very likely not intending to do harm should be harmed just because there is a minuscule chance that they could. Incidentally, I also don't care for pro-TSA mentalities (everyone getting punished).

Now mod me as troll, because I don't tow the ridiculously naive and cluelessly idealistic slashdot party line on "free speech".

I think you picked the wrong story to make this comment on if that was your intention.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789939)

So what's your point, you throw out a lot of statements but you fail to make any specific point.

"Only if you put limits on it." - So what?
"When you mindlessly apply these laws to people who clearly didn't intend to do any harm" - Your opinion.

So free software hippie, do you stand for free speech or not?

Re:Look (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789993)

So what?

Saying that everything has limits is false (as those limits, if they exist, are simply defined by the law, and those limits needn't exist).

Your opinion.

Yes, and? How else would I discuss it?

So free software hippie

Don't know where you got that.

do you stand for free speech or not?

Of course. Not sure about the one I replied to, though.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790093)

"Don't know where you got that." Assumption on my part, but there are a lot of them around here. Perhaps I am wrong, my bad, apologies.

"Of course. Not sure about the one I replied to, though."

A fair question. So do you believe Chik-Fil-A should be allowed to deploy franchises to Chicago or Boston then? Will you support their COO's right to free speech?

Please note those are two separate questions.

Re:Look (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790267)

So do you believe Chik-Fil-A should be allowed to deploy franchises to Chicago or Boston then? Will you support their COO's right to free speech?

Yes.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790363)

Fair enough, as I said I misread you, my apologies.

I wonder why none of the real free software hippies seem to want to respond to this question...

Oh well. Cheers.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40792009)

What does that COOs right to free speech have to do with opening franchises in Chicago and Boston? He got his free speech. Now he gets to pay the consequences.

Re:Look (2, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789959)

"Only if you put limits on it."

no, the limits are natural. people like to whine about government taking away their rights, and in many cases the government is hurting rights for bad or no good reasons. but there are also people who whine about limits on their rights who are just idiots who don't understand where their "freedoms" impact others: my freedom to drive drunk, my freedom to blast my music at 3 am, my freedom to have an unchained dog run at you on the road, etc.

there's that famous quote: "Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins"

and what it means is your rights and freedoms naturally exist in tension with other people's rights and freedoms

so no, you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre because... fascist controlling government WHARGARBBBLLL...

no, because you might cause someone else's death or injury in panic

NATURAL limits on your freedoms

this is the difference between understanding freedom as a teenager understands it (freedom from responsibility) and understanding freedom as an adult understands it (freedom and responsibility)

this is not denigrate chronological teenagers: plenty of teenagers have a well-developed sense of morality on the subject, and plenty of chronological adults are immature irresponsible assholes: mental teenagers

Re:Look (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790047)

no, the limits are natural.

No, the limits are defined by law. If there were no legal limit, then... there would be no legal limit.

so no, you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theatre

I can. I just might be punished for it since that apparently isn't considered protected speech.

because

Because the law says so.

no, because you might cause someone else's death or injury in panic

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with the topic at hand (this specific case).

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40792043)

I'm sorry, but you don't understand the difference between natural and artificial limits. There are no natural limits to prevent me from yelling fire in the theater. This was proven conclusively last Friday, dumbass.

Re:Look (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#40791781)

Everything has its limits.

Only if you put limits on it.

Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
      --- Paul Brandt

Re:Look (1)

LQ (188043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789625)

Complain about anything you want in a free society.

But the concept of freedom of speech does NOT apply to:

1. talk about killing someone specifically
2. talk about blowing something up specifically

If you don't understand why, you are pretty stupid.

Everything has its limits. EVERYTHING. You don't shout fire in a crowded theatre. You don't threaten to kill or maim or bomb. You don't publish your ex-wife's nude photos, etc.: there are actually LIMITS on what you can do or say in a free society. Those limits are where your "free speech" results in real harm to other individuals.

Plus, much of the people whining that no one can take a joke any more will be whining about why the police didn't follow up on the public comments of the next psycho who shoots up a mall or bombs a bus terminal, comments made before he did those atrocities.

The concept of freedom does not include the concept of freedom from responsibility.

Now mod me as troll, because I don't tow the ridiculously naive and cluelessly idealistic slashdot party line on "free speech".

Yes but if I make a statement like "our new goalkeeper needs a good kick up the backside" it should not be construed as an actual threat of physical violence. Should the police and courts punish everyone who makes such clearly non-serious remarks?

Re:Look (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789699)

You never said anything along the lines of "I'm going to kill that idiot" or "Best way to fix this is to just blow the shit up and cash in the insurance"? I did. And anyone with half a brain knows that it is said in jest. If you take someone serious who threatens to blow up an airport for his flight being late or the runway not being cleared of snow, I don't know who is the lunatic here, but I'd guess you'd win the contest.

The absolute maximum that I'd accept in this case is an investigation which will turn up that he is in general a pretty normal guy who just got ticked off by something going wrong. But jailing him?

Did common sense and rational thought get unpopular among judges?

Re:Look (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789753)

My mother repeatedly and pointedly informed me on numerous occasions that she was going to kill me / would kill me if I performed action X (where X was a totally legal endeavour).

Should I have reported each instance to the police, be put into care, have my mother jailed, etc. for that? No.

"Free speech" is a misnomer in that what the average person calls "Free" is not what I call "Free" and isn't what the word "Free" means. Most people definition of "free speech" doesn't include hate speech, lies, threats or anything else. Thus it's not *technically* free.

If someone (say a UK police commissioner) wants to claim that, for example, most inner-city crime was committed by black people (a verifiable fact given the data at the time), then can we censor that because it could be construed as hate speech? Does that mean that a guy shouting that same fact in the street would be subject to different laws than a police commissioner saying it in a press conference? That's a dangerous precedent to set.

Is it also "against free speech" to lie? Surely if my speech is truly "free" I can say or claim anything? But that runs into libel laws and other problems (i.e. lying in court).

Thus there is no one fixed definition of this magical "Free Speech" and if you try to make an all-encompassing one you will absolutely fail unless you accept a world where people can freely lie all the time and where they can also never be harassed for telling the truth, or for lying (or, alternatively, where they can ALWAYS be harassed no matter what).

True free speech does not, and cannot exist, in the current political and legal climate or even, I would posit, at all. Thus it's pointless to consider it, which is why most countries do NOT have an explicit statement regarding free speech (and even some of the largest and most influential countries in the world have no formal legal statement of such a right - for instance, the UK - and never have had in their entire history).

Free speech is a fabrication of idealism that doesn't actually work in real life. In its absence, we have to fall back on the law and common sense. Was what he did illegal? Only if it could be reasonably be construed to be a threat. This says that it couldn't. Was what he did stupid? Not particularly. No worse than I hear a thousand times a day or heard from my own mother (seriously, what's the difference between his tweet and someone saying "If another person pulls the plug out of that server, I'm going to boil them in acid?").

10 years ago, nobody would have even cared. And today, he was proved innocent on all counts. That kinda means that nobody SHOULD have cared at all. The problem here is not the legal definition, or irresponsible behaviour - it's a prosecution service that ever thought such a petty thing could be the basis of a case in the first place.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791383)

"True free speech does not, and cannot exist, in the current political and legal climate or even, I would posit, at all."

You speak as one who comes from across the pond as we say. I am guessing you pay a tax to watch television, am I right?

Freedom of speech, religious freedom, the right to bear arms are foreign things to most of the rest of the world, we understand that here in the United States.

I would suggest to you some research is in order.

http://www.federalistblog.us/2008/10/freedom_of_speech_and_of_the_press/

"Freedom of speech and of the press served one purpose in America: To remove the fear of the common law doctrine of seditious libel so citizens could freely speak or publish without license their grievances against public policy or conduct of public officials. One of the distasteful things found under the common law was the government practice of criminalizing or shielding itself through requiring license to publish of any criticism it felt made people dissatisfied with their government or government established religion. ...
In 1808 for example, the British newspaper publisher, John Drakard, was indicted over an article questioning military flogging, and the jury had been instructed that the military establishment had been injured and “it was not to be permitted to any man to make the people dissatisfied with the Government under which he lives.” Henry VIII once made it a high treason crime to suggest his marriage to Anne of Cleves was valid even though it was the truth."

Re:Look (3, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40794025)

I'm British. We don't *NEED* to specify freedom of speech in the same manner. It's an inherent privilege.

We don't have, nor need, a right to bear arms. We haven't had in hundreds of years. We don't need a specification of religious freedom, we have it already.

And nobody in the UK pays a tax to watch television. They pay a fee to own a television capable of live reception and display of TV signals - which funds the BBC directly, one of the world's most renowned broadcasters, let alone public service broadcasters. We also have hardly any toll roads, a free healthcare service, and a press which has only the other year fought the political and legal system to ensure freedom of speech was preserved above all else (see "super injunctions"). By comparison a minor "luxury tax" on owning a TV is a drop in the ocean. In the same way, I could distil your entire country into a bunch of people who don't care that the poor die of simple illnesses they can't afford to have treated. I know which I'd rather have.

And this article is about that same British freedom of speech overriding the law WITHOUT THAT RIGHT NEEDING TO BE STATED - because it's so inherent in the legal system and culture that we don't need to. And it has also made news BECAUSE nobody believed it had got so far under UK law (because it was meritless from day one).

And never, in the entire world, have I seen an entire country so scared of calling someone a dickhead live on TV as the American people. You can't, because they'll sue your arse off for doing so. Your libel laws actually do the opposite of what you claim. Like the stereotypical American, you have no concept of how "unfree" you actually are and wish to point fingers at other countries and say "that's wrong" when you suffer worse every day yourself.

You have to pick your example from the 1800's, for someone that nobody has ever heard of, because all the more recent examples work against your theory and you an only state one-off. The guy you mention was himself sentenced to be horsewhipped a few years after - hardly a "modern" case.

My country is far from perfect. Read my comment history, I'm the first to admit it. The difference is that I know it.

P.S. How's that imprisoning-"suspected"-terrorists-for-10+-years-without-trial-or-appeal-in-lands-foreign-to-them-and-including-public-proof-of-torture-techniques coming along? You still have NO idea how to behave as a civilisation - those people could well be random innocent foreigners and neither your country nor your president give a shit. Don't lecture me on freedom.

Re:Look (2)

bitt3n (941736) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789935)

Complain about anything you want in a free society.

But the concept of freedom of speech does NOT apply to:

1. talk about killing someone specifically

2. talk about blowing something up specifically

You appear to have been misinformed. Providing one does not incite imminent lawless action [wikipedia.org] , it is perfectly legal under the First Amendment to advocate killing a specific person or blowing up a specific building, as a result of Brandenburg v. Ohio [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791571)

US law does not apply in the UK. We don't have freedom of speech and the 1st Amendment does not apply. I for one am glad that hate speech results in a prison sentence over here. We'd have locked up the KKK and Westboro Basptist people a long time ago. I'm glad that women like this get locked up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd8iYLvlQaM [youtube.com]

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40792125)

I so, so hope that you become the victim of a hate crime.

You are confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790039)

A physical threat, i.e. yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, does NOT justify "limits" on free speech, and the fact that such an incident results in arrest does NOT validate your position (that freedom has "limits").

The speech isn't the problem here, it's the threat. Do you honestly not understand the difference? The fact that that threat came in the form of speech is irrelevant. What if the same "fire" yeller, instead of yelling, chose to set off the alarm? Or perhaps he could set himself on fire and run down the aisle blazing. In these instances, he would achieve the same result (chaos) with no speech at all. There is no practical difference. He caused the same dangerous situation -- the same threat -- justifying a retaliation of physical force.

In your mind, would setting off the fire alarm justify "limits" on speech? How about running down the aisle blazing? It makes about as much sense as citing the yeller as justification for your "limits".

Let's be honest with ourselves and put the agenda on the back burner. The fact that you can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater isn't a limitation on free speech -- it is a prohibition on physical threats.

Re:Look (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790041)

Can you think about killing someone, or blowing someplace up? Will the Thought Police come arrest you if the idea comes to your mind? What about movies, they portray killing and blowing stuff up all the time, should we put limits on Hollywood too? There is such a thing as common sense, and knowing when your serious or not. The man wasn't yelling in a theater or plane. To me tweeting is no different than speaking your mind in forums, or emails. People say outrages things all the time, but knowing that no one will be taking it serious.

Re:Look (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790147)

Context and intent. Without these meaning and criminality are indeterminate. In fact your ranting about reaching your "LIMITS" over the nude pictures I posted of your mom seems awfully threatening...

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790181)

Plus, much of the people whining that no one can take a joke any more will be whining about why the police didn't follow up on the public comments of the next psycho who shoots up a mall or bombs a bus terminal, comments made before he did those atrocities.

Or when Milton threatens to burn the whole building down.

Re:Look (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791967)

You can live by your silly rules if you like. The rest of us carry guns.

Re:Look (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#40793655)

So if I say that new soft drink is "the bomb", I deserve to be prosecuted?

If some paranoid schizophrenic somehow parses your message as a threat against the pope, we have no choice but to prosecute you? (After all, you DID write the message and it DID cause someone to feel terrorized).

If some derp can't comprehend a bit of humor or irony in text, why should the writer be prosecuted and not the derp?

Re:Look (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40796335)

You are trolling, because you know fine well that no reasonable person would treat this case as a real threat.

Surprise me, deal with specifics, don't just wave your hands and walk away, chuckling. You know better than that. You - we - have been around long enough to know what we're doing.

Insane (3, Interesting)

Andrio (2580551) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789409)

The men who went ahead and tried to prosecute this guy are professional men. They get up early, and put on suits. They carry briefcases. They went to college and graduated. Within the entire spectrum of the human race, they are in the top 5% of education and work.

And they still went ahead with the prosecution of such an obvious joke.

I weep for the human race.

Re:Insane (0)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789721)

If they were among the top 5% of the population, they wouldn't work for the government but could hold a real job.

Incorrect (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790149)

A lot of the CPS are in fact women. People who deal with the CPS, also, might also draw the line at "they get up early".

The CPS consists of the lawyers who didn't get a place at a decent firm of solicitors or a good Chambers.

When it comes to petty tyranny.. (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 2 years ago | (#40793433)

Women tend to exceed even men.

Re:Incorrect (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#40796311)

Women are more vindictive and petty than men, and I'm not talking generalities here, I'm speaking to the specifics of prosecution of cases in the various territories of the United Kingdom.

I don't get it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40789441)

Are you free software hippies pro free speech or not?

I can never remember.

Can someone clear this up then?

Open to what? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789485)

Can someone help me parse this bit?

We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it.

What is "it"? Am I missing the bleedin' obvious again?

Re:Open to what? (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789565)

The Crown Court. The decision it made was not one it should have been able to make.

Re:Open to what? (2)

Flatwater (2169620) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789617)

I found this challenging too. I think (caveat: filtered by my middle-American interpretation of English) the "it" refers to the Crown Court.

As in, "The Crown Court made a decision it had no objective reason to make."

It made a decision that was not open to it.

Corrections from across the pond?

Re:Open to what? (2)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789833)

My opinion from across the pond agrees.

Technically, there's nothing wrong or even specifically English about the sentence and the object is perfectly well specified. You just have to read it properly, that's all.

It's not 100% perfectly clear and is worded slightly oddly, but the context is enough to clarify, I would think. And lots of things are worded oddly when you "speak properly" or work in law.

very objective (2)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789571)

I disagree. I think he made the decision very objectively. He carefully weighed "I'm an overly-aggressive asshole" with "I support security theater over logic when it comes to airports" with "I'll be such a famous anti-terrorist, zero tolerance judge and get famous in the media" and made a logical decision. Of course, all he managed to do was get famous in the media lol. Time to start looking for a new job hopefully since he's proven to be completely incapable of doing his current one.

Two points (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790171)

First, the junior judge in the case was a woman. Second, junior judges might well be overawed by the CPS.

The police didn't want to take action. My Lords of Appeal said there was no case. The case was brought entirely at the instigation of the Crown Prosecution Service and your beef is with them.

Whoa (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40789975)

Wait, there's a "Robin Hood Airport"?

And we can't even get an "Elvis Presley International Airport" and he was a real guy.

Re:Whoa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40791055)

Yeah, we even have a John Lennon Airport too.

Re:Whoa (4, Funny)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | more than 2 years ago | (#40791247)

Wait, there's a "Robin Hood Airport"? And we can't even get an "Elvis Presley International Airport" and he was a real guy.

It's usual to only name buildings after people who are dead.

The new legalese? (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790027)

'We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character was not open to it.

I've reread this sentence several times and it doesn't make sense to me. If remove the clause "that this 'tweet' constituted or included a message of a menacing character" you're left with "We have concluded that, on an objective assessment, the decision of the Crown Court was not open to it."
The decision was not "open" to what, exactly?

Re:The new legalese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790183)

IANAL, but I think 'it' refers to the court. The thing that was not open (in the sense of available) is the decision.

It's saying that the court decided something (that the tweet was threatening) that couldn't be decided based solely on objective assessment of the evidence

Perhaps it's early but... (1)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790077)

Perhaps it is early but... did anyone else read that last line as

"which can be considered a severe slap for the Clown Prosecutor."

?

This must stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40790569)

This must stop, we cannot allow common sense and humor to prevail. We must punish people that vent frustrations using colorful language to the fullest extent the law provides. Do we really want a world that is filled with humor and jokes? I think it would be so much better to ensure that people just stair at the ground and keep their mouths shut, for fear of prosecution. I don't want them walking along bouncing, I want them walking along, somber, like they have been beat down all their life, like someone just shot their favorite dog.

A test (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790583)

I think, as a test of the freedom of speech, this person should now receive death threats for the rest of his life. As a joke. For fun.

The whole "joke" bit just sounds like the usual scumbag escape clause to me, of course it was a joke, it wouldn't look good in court if he said "I made that tweet because I am a self-entitled asshole who threatens senseless violence at the drop of a hat".

10 to 1 that everyone who defends this guy, is the type who go screaming to the police if someone even looks at them funny. Oh wait, Stephen Fry? Isn't he the one who ran out of play that people had payed him for because he didn't like a review? Guess reviews aren't free speech. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_Mates_(play) [wikipedia.org]

Ah no, that was bipolar disorder, another standard excuse when people realize they did something that they don't want to be hold accountable for.

Re:A test (4, Insightful)

Grumbleduke (789126) | more than 2 years ago | (#40790821)

I think, as a test of the freedom of speech, this person should now receive death threats for the rest of his life. As a joke. For fun.

So you've just used a public electronic communications network to send a message calling for someone to receive death threats for the rest of his life. That could be considered a message "of an indecent, obscene or menacing character". Sounds like an arguable case for a prosecution under s127 of the Communications Act 2003 [legislation.gov.uk] ; the same law this guy was originally convicted under.

Fortunately, today's ruling means you're probably fine, but it is something worth bearing in mind next time you incite death threats.

Or were you merely joking?

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