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.