Paul Chambers: The case of the malicious tweet

February 6, 2017

 

The Judge

Paul Chambers, a frustrated air traveller, tweeted in exasperation at the delays to his flight. The tweet was to change his life, and not for the better

Our story starts in January 2010.  Snow was adding to travellers problems’ including those at Nottingham’s Robin Hood airport

A young accountant was in danger of damaging his planned romantic meeting. In heavily ironic tones he tweeted

that unless service improved, he would be back in a week to blow up the airport.

Pause for reader reaction

The cautious me suggests that if security learned of the tweet, it might prompt the mildest of low-cost checking to see if the tweet was intended as. Joke (say 99% probability) or a bizarre early warning of terrorism intentions (say 1% probability).

What happened next

According to the report of the court case, Mr Chambers was en route to Belfast to consummate a twitter romance in real life. Failing to make his flight, the thwarted suiter returned to work when the local police arrived, and hauled him off into custody.

Legal proceedings followed, which resulted in a fine for which the appeal was originally turned down.

Eventually his high court challenge was successful, as The Guardian reported

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/27/twitter-joke-trial-high-court

 

Paul Chambers, who was found guilty of sending a menacing tweet, has won his high court challenge against his conviction. Outside the court, he said he felt “relieved and vindicated”, adding: “It’s ridiculous it ever got so far.”

He had tweeted in frustration when he discovered that Robin Hood airport in South Yorkshire was closed because of snow. Eager to see his girlfriend, he sent out a tweet on the publicly accessible site declaring: “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!!”

He has always maintained that he did not believe anyone would take his “silly joke” seriously.

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.”

Twitter to the rescue

As the mills of justice had ground on, twitter had sprung to the rescue. Celebrity twitter comedians such as Stephen Fry offered moral support, the spotlight of publicity, and some bankrolling of legal charges.

Not the only case

The tweeter appeared on Radio Five Live today [February 3rd, 2017]. He seemed a remarkably sanguine victim of wrongful arrest and of the loss of his job. His new wife too has given him moral support. (I’m not sure yet if she was the object of his snow-abandoned flight in 2010.)

I added this case to my collection of stories about twitter going viral over injustices visited on tweeters. Airline passengers have appeared quite frequently in the stories. [See Dilemmas of Leadership .]

Lessons learned

Twitter is a good friend but can be your worse enemy. A lesson there for Donald Trump perhaps?

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Oludotun Adebayo, Radio Five’s Night Rider, comes into the light

April 13, 2015

Dotun AdabayeThe distinguished journalist and political activist Oludotun Adebayo has his faithful night-time radio listeners. He is now gaining a wider daytime audience

I am a part-time insomniac, working with a zero sleep-hours contract. My normal remedy is to turn the pesky brain-signals into a blog post. My alternative approach is to listen to the relaxing items on the BBC Five’s Up All Night radio programme master-minded by the amiable Oludotun (Dotun) Adebayo.

Background

Dotun Grew up in Tottenham, and won a scholarship to read Scandinavian literature at Stockholm. He founded The X Press publishing house and has been working for the BBC since 1993. He was awarded an MBE for services to the arts in 2009, and is married to pop singer Carroll Thompson

He has been presenter of Up All Night since Nov 2001.  His books include the cult classics Sperm Bandits (2002) and Can I Have My Balls Back Please (2003)

The Young Entrepreneur

He gives an indication of his background as a young boy whose family moved from Lagos to England [in an article he wrote for The Voice a few years ago] :

I was sent to work at a store at the age of 12 to help with the family finances. I didn’t fool my work colleagues at the time, but I would have sworn an affidavit there and then that I was the requisite age of 16, so proud was I of being able to help my folks out at a time of crisis.

In such circumstances, the superiority of that African heritage understanding of family and duty, and the respect you have to show your parents, shines through. Add to that the improvisation of the poor to make ends meet, and I suppose any child would have gone to court to swear an affidavit that all known birth records were lost in a fire in Lagos, Nigeria.

I would have said: ‘I, Oludotun Adebayo, swear that I was born four years earlier than I actually was, and the fact that I look like I’m not old enough to be a teenager is neither here nor there. And neither is the fact I, unlike any other 16-year-old, haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about when you ask me about my O’ levels.’

Now the Night Rider of Radio 5 has been given an afternoon slot. Will he yield to the temptation to head for the Marmite fame of a celebrity broadcaster?

Acknowledgement

To Conor for researching into Adabayo’s biography.


Overheard at Wimbledon: The hot and cold nature of French tennis players

June 27, 2014


Wimbledon’s tennis tournament each year provides many examples of discussion suggesting the irresistible temptation for commentators to indulge in national stereotypes. The following is offered for practice in discourse analysis

BBC’s Radio 5 Live [606 Wavelength]re-labels its self as ‘Radio Six Love Six’ for Wimbledon fortnight. The following exchange between two [English] commentators was broadcast today, as play was starting [ 27th June 2014] in a third round match in the Gentlemen’s Singles competition

First English commentator
He’s a beautiful player, so graceful and powerful

Second English commentator
… but he blows hot and cold

First English commentator
Yes he’s like that. But that’s the same with French players

Second English commentator
Yes, they all blow hot and cold

First English commentator
That’s the French temperament isn’t it?

Regular readers will recall equally enlightened discussions initiated by another commentator, John Inverdale, at last year’s Wimbledon

The BBC was forced to apologize for remarks made by John Inverdale about Marion Bartoli, an hour before the match which won her the Wimbledon Ladies singles competition:

Inverdale’s comment came about an hour before the match began as he chatted to former Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport about Bartoli’s technique as a player. He said: “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. ‘You are never going to be somebody like a [supermodel such as] Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that. You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it’, and she kind of is.”

Inverdale’s comments on Radio 5 live as the French player prepared to face Germany’s Sabine Lisicki provoked anger from many listeners. A BBC spokesperson said: “We accept that this remark was insensitive and for that we apologize.”

Learning from experience

Mr Inverdale has learned not to focus on the pulchritude of the players. This year he has found a replacement interest. He has noticed that players are of different sizes. This permits much discussion about how tiny some of the ladies are, and who might have been the tiniest of all time. Many he didn’t quite take on board the messages from his remedial training on avoiding such topics.