Security Horror Story : Outrageous Idiocy in the UK

Robinhoodairportb A man – Paul Chambers – makes a joke on Twitter, venting his frustration about a UK airport being closed due to bad weather, in a context where he was very keen to fly over to Ireland to be with his girlfriend.

Specifically, he tweeted

"Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week… otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!"

The airport's director of security stumbled across the tweet, presumably by searching for all mentions of Robin Hood Airport on Twitter.  He deemed it a 'non-credible threat', but due to the mandates of procedures, passed the information on to the South Yorkshire police.

They sent a squad of five anti-terrorist officers to Paul's workplace and arrested him under anti-terrorist legislation.

But they too subsequently decided it was not a terrorist crime at all.  And so released the man.  But the mandates of procedures required them to pass the information on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Unfortunately, Paul lost his job as a result of his arrest, after nine years of good work performance.

The CPS decided that the offence doesn't fall under the bomb-hoax crimes.  But instead of dropping the case, they search into Britain's rich tapestry of laws, and find an offence under the Communications Act which they believe they can extend to cover Paul's tweet – a provision making it an offence to send a 'menacing message' over a public communications network.

This prosecution should surely have failed, due to it requiring both an actual act and an underlying deliberate intention to carry out that actual act (in legal terms actus reus and mens rea).  Legal experts have argued cogently that Paul's tweet was not a menacing message, and that he had no intention of sending a menacing message – it was a joke sent narrowly to his twitter followers.  He did not commit an actus reus and did not have any mens rea.

By now it appears that even the CPS realized that it was out on a limb, and so it mounted a weak prosecution against Paul at trial which it said itself it expected to lose.

But the 'learned' judge found Paul guilty, saying that in the context of these times, a crime had been committed.  Oh yes – 'the context of these times' – unrestrained paranoia and idiocy.

The case is now due to be heard at appeal, where hopefully a 'real' judge will apply either some legal sense or common sense to the matter.

Did I mention that Paul has now lost a second job, due to his new employer finding out about his conviction and appeal?

Britain, the well-spring of much of modern democracy and freedoms, increasingly finds its well has been poisoned by officious fools with too much power and too little commonsense.  What would the original Robin Hood think of this new Britain?

More information :  A general overview of the case here, an explanation of how wrong it is by an attorney here, and commentary by Paul's girlfriend here.

 

1 thought on “Security Horror Story : Outrageous Idiocy in the UK”

  1. Excellent piece. Sadly UK law has been turned upside-down and inside-out by anti-terrorism looniness. The new British government appears intent on redressing many of the wrongs. Let’s hope this young man benefits from this restoration of common sense.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top

Free Weekly Emailed Newsletter

Usually weekly, since 2001, we publish a roundup of travel and travel related technology developments, and often a feature article too.

You’ll stay up to date with the latest and greatest (and cautioned about the worst) developments.  You’ll get information to help you choose and become a better informed traveler and consumer, how to best use new technologies, and at times, will learn of things that might entertain, amuse, annoy or even outrage you.

We’re very politically incorrect and love to point out the unrebutted hypocrisies and unfairnesses out there.

This is all entirely free (but you’re welcome to voluntarily contribute!), and should you wish to, easy to cancel.

We’re not about to spam you any which way and as you can see, we don’t ask for any information except your email address and how often you want to receive our newsletters.

Newsletter Signup - Welcome!

Thanks for choosing to receive our newsletters.  We hope you’ll enjoy them and become a long-term reader, and maybe on occasion, add comments and thoughts of your own to the newsletters and articles we publish.

We’ll send you a confirmation email some time in the next few days to confirm your email address, and when you reply to that, you’ll then be on the list.

All the very best for now, and welcome to the growing “Travel Insider family”.






David.