Sunday, 14 November 2010

A letter to my MP

Dear [Name of MP redacted]

I write both as your constituent and as a regular user of social media. I am deeply worried by the recent ruling in the case of Paul Chambers. He is a twitter user who sent a tweet saying: "Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week... otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" (For a very good background see

The judgement of the Crown Court on the 11th was that this tweet was "menacing in its content and obviously so" and that he should be fined several thousand pounds.

It is obviously not for you as an MP to criticise any court, and I would not ask you to do so. However the law itself is your job. The court has come to the decision that this obviously jocular tweet was "menacing", not that it was a bomb hoax which cost Robin Hood Airport time and money (it did not), nor that it was an incitement to violence (it was not). In both cases there are far better drafted and far more applicable laws in both cases.

To take the judge's interpretation of the Act (which of course we must do until it is overruled) anything which could upset someone who could receive it must be counted as menacing and must be prosecuted. This means that vast changes must be brought about in our public discourse. One clear example is Sir John Betjeman's "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough". Which would seem to be an arrestable offence were Betjeman to publish it today. Likewise the phrase "I could murder an Indian" devoid of the context of planning where to go out for a meal would, in the judge's apparent interpretation of the law be "clearly menacing".

This cannot stand. It is of course not your place to criticise the court, we must assume they have made the correct legal decision. What must then be done is to remove the offence totally from statute. I would therefore like to ask you to do whatever is in your power to secure a debate on, and to repeal, the Communication Act 2003, at the very least section 127 of it.

This could quite easily fit into the Freedom Bill promised in the Coalition agreement. I would ask that you try to get this included in whatever form this bill eventually takes.

This is a very bad law for which, it seems to me, there is no need. We need laws to deal with bomb hoaxes, and we have such laws, very well drafted with few implications for normal use of social media. We need laws to deal with incitement to violence (as with Councillor Gareth Compton's call for a journalist to be stoned) and we have such laws, they make it quite clear that in the case of a joke where it is not intended that anyone should be inspired to commit violence (as seems to be true in this case) that no offence exists. However the use of the Communications Act in both these cases means that both have clearly committed the offence of "menacing", where it seems clear that neither have harmed anyone.

I hope this email finds you well, if you wish any clarification feel free to email either me or the very well respected David Allen Green.


Adam Casey

[Address redacted]

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