Tuesday, May 11, 2010

British law: Bloody inconsistent

It's been barely a month since the brilliant response by the Court of Appeals in the BCA vs Simon Singh case. Sadly, they can't all be gems. Paul Chambers has just been convicted.

In case anyone hasn't come across this case, Mr Chambers made a comment on his Twitter feed expressing frustration at the closure of his local airport:

"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!"

Pretty normal for Twitter, you'd think, and frankly rather mild for the Internet as a whole. Sadly, the Crown Prosecution Service didn't agree. When they got wind of this comment, they decided to prosecute him for sending a message on a public network that was "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".

Quite apart from the WTF that we have such a fuzzy law on our books, there is no evidence that Mr Chambers intended to menace anyone, or that anyone in fact felt menaced. This is apparently a case of the CPS deciding that Mr Chambers must be guilty of something, and then hunting up an obscure law to fit. (We actually have a law specifically dealing with bomb threats, but that would have required the CPS to make a more solid case so they (ab)used an obscenity law instead.)

Now, as an average netizen, I'd normally respond with a comment like:

"These vindictive fascist little jobsworths will be first against the wall when the revolution comes."

But given the CPS's apparent inability to recognise hyperbolic comments, I wouldn't dream of saying any such thing.

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