Posted by: Steve Leedale | November 15, 2010

Twitter Joke Trial: Should Paul Chambers appeal to the High Court?

I do not envy Paul Chambers one little bit.  After an appalling decision by Judge Jacqueline Davies in Doncaster Crown Court on Thursday 11th November he is now faced with having to either accept the truly awful verdict and go through life with a criminal record or to put himself, and those close to him, through the mill once again by appealing to the High Court.

For anyone following the case on Twitter the decision is easy; appeal and appeal some more until you find a court where common sense rules.  I’m not really sure that it can be that simple for Paul though.  Given that two courts have now failed to use common sense then he really must be feeling that common sense in the legal world really isn’t that common after all.

Having sat through both days of the appeal it became apparent to me that the Crown Prosecution Service, in the form of Caroline Wiggin, was happy to portray users of Twitter as egotistical fantasists who would write anything as long as it would be lapped up by as many brainless followers as possible.  Judge Davies certainly seemed happy with this explanation and a lot seemed to rest on this.  That tweet was portrayed as a deliberate (and menacing) attempt to excite the masses and threaten authority.  The judge went as far as to say, “menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it in that way and be alarmed.” No common sense there then!

So, should Paul carry on with his fight?

Well, the above statement, for me at least, gives his legal team plenty to play with.  Judge Davies’ additional use of an imaginary old couple who having booked their first ever foreign holiday and deciding to look up the airport on Twitter (as they clearly would) and then being too scared to fly, has got to be a sign of just how detached these legal decision makers can be.  Presumably the same naive old couple will be reporting every person they overhear who could murder an Indian.

My personal opinion is that Paul has to fight on.  Whether he will or not is a decision only he can make.  The soul-destroying nature of the fight with the legal knock-backs Paul has received and the resultant personal stress involved in going through a case that will impact on the rest of your life is something that most of us Twitterers seem to forget as we urge him on further and further.

Or maybe you just can’t really sum that up in 140 characters.

Maybe it is time to give Paul some space on Twitter.  Or at least limit our input to moral support and allow him to make his own decision, rather than urging him to star in the next episode of our soap opera.


Responses

  1. I don’t think there’s much more they can do to Paul. Provided his costs are covered and he can bear the strain then I’d like to see this go further as it’s important to the future.

    Even if the appeal was lost, it might provide for a platform to get the law clarified on this matter by parliament as there are are surely many MPs that will be deeply unhappy with this.

    • I too would like to see Paul proceed but I am keen that he is not pushed into this. To live the trial 24/7 must be very draining, as must be the thought of having a criminal record over such nonsense. People who didn’t know Paul before this were extremely tense in the courtroom. I can only imagine the stress of having to live through it.
      The frustrating thing for me is the amount of people who refuse to backdown or admit to the ridiculousness of the trial. I actually spoke to an airport employee at the appeal and asked her if she had really been scared by the “threat”. After a telling pause she said that she had been concerned. This was clearly crap but she knew it was what she had to say. I fear that this pattern will repeat and repeat and that future appeals may come up against yet more spineless individuals who uphold Paul’s conviction.

      • I remember that. I think she was keen not to misrepresent the airport’s reaction in case it could come back to bite them somehow. I’ve always made it clear to people that it is Paul and Sarah’s decision whether to continue. They just need to feel confident that the support is there, both morally and financially.

      • Totally agree.

  2. I don’t envy Mr. Chambers. Stress, pride, The Principle and everyday practicalities must all be weighed. And each is a squirmy bugger at the best of times.

    On a related note, I would avoid flogging the “Hypothetical Elderly Couple” argument. Ot seems to be irrelevant, as I believe the (dangerously deranged) judge pointed out that, by law, nobody need feel menaced for Paul’s tweet to be considered menacing. She just had to be satisfied that the intent was there.

    All the best to Paul & Crazy.

    • I agree with your legal point about intent but I would say that the “old couple” was the last thing the judge spoke about (passionately at that) before retiring to make her decision and I believe that these are the same “ordinary people” that she believes would read menace into Paul’s tweet. That they are irrelevant only serves to demonstrate what Paul is up against with a judge who wants to protect a non-existent section of society.

  3. I hope he takes this further, but I won’t push the guy – as I told him in person, the decision has to be his.

    Let’s wait for him to make up his mind…

    • My perception is that those who are genuinely close to the case understand and support appropriately. I know from having met those in attendance at the appeal that we all care about the people involved and not simply the outcome and I am pretty sure this comes across.
      The sad irony is that this post won’t be read by those who it is really aimed at.


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