The High Court has overturned the conviction of a man who joked he would "blow up" an airport on Twitter - and was then prosecuted for "malicious communication."
Known as the Twitter Joke Trial, the landmark case has dragged on for two-and-a-half years, after Paul Chambers tweeted his exasperation that he would not be able to travel to Northern Ireland to meet a woman he had met on he social networking site.
Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your sh*t together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!
An airport employee referred the tweet to his security manager who contacted airport security police and South Yorkshire police, who arrested Chambers.
He was arrested for a "bomb hoax", but the Crown Prosecution Service decided instead to press charges under the Communications Act 2003 for a message "of a menacing character".
Chambers lost his job at a car distribution firm where he was a financial supervisor.
After hearing of his plight, Chambers has had high profile support from British comedians including Stephen Fry and Al Murray, New Statesman legal editor and columned David Allen Green and his MP Louise Mensch.
On Friday, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Griffith Williams, 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."
The appeal judgement said: "There was no evidence before the Crown Court to suggest that any of the followers of the appellant’s “tweet”, or indeed anyone else who may have seen the “tweet” posted on the appellant’s time line, found it to be of a menacing character or, at a time when the threat of terrorism is real, even minimally alarming."
Chambers was originally convicted at Doncaster Magistrates Court and had to pay £1,000 in fines and costs. The decision was upheld by Doncaster Crown Court.
At a High Court Appeal in February, two judges failed to reach a verdict, and a retrial was scheduled with three judges for June this year, in front of the Lord Chief Justice.Suggest a correction