Doncaster Sheffield Airport: Call for TV's Al Murray and Stephen Fry to join fight

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The call has gone out for TV comedians Al Murray and Stephen Fry to join the fight to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

The pair were instrumental in what become known as the Twitter joke trial when a passenger jokingly threatened to blow up the airport after his travel plans were disrupted.

Paul Chambers was arrested and charged with the comedians later supporting him in his fight to get the conviction overturned.

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During late December 2009 and early January 2010, cold weather had resulted in considerable disruption across northern England with the then Robin Hood Airport forced to cancel flights.

Al Murray and Stephen Fry are being urged to join the campaign to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport.Al Murray and Stephen Fry are being urged to join the campaign to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
Al Murray and Stephen Fry are being urged to join the campaign to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

On 6 January 2010, Chambers, then aged 26, who was hoping to fly to Northern Ireland, posted: “Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your s*** together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!

A week later, an off-duty manager at the airport found the message while doing an unrelated computer search.

The airport management considered the message to be "not credible" as a threat, but contacted the police anyway.

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Chambers was arrested by anti-terror police at his office, his house was searched and his mobile phone, laptop and desktop hard drive were confiscated.

He was later charged with "sending a public electronic message that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character contrary to the Communications Act 2003".

On 10 May, he was found guilty at Doncaster Magistrates' Court, fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs. As a consequence he lost his job as an administrative and financial supervisor at a car parts company.

A number of legal commentators and celebrities including Fry and Murray criticised the conviction and called for it to be overturned, with Fry offering to pay Chambers's fine and subsequent legal bills.

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He lost an appeal against his conviction with Judge Jacqueline Davies judged that the tweet contained "menace" and that Chambers must have known that it might be taken seriously.

Thousands of Twitter users responded by reposting Chambers' Tweet including the hashtag #iamspartacus, in reference to the climactic "I am Spartacus!" scene in the 1960 film Spartacus.

A further appeal to the High Court was heard on 8 February 2012, in which the two judge panel of Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin failed to reach a decision after initially reserving judgement.

A second High Court appeal, before a panel of three judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, opened on 22 June 2012.

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One of the arguments made by Chambers' barrister for this last appeal, John Cooper QC, was that if the tweet was "menacing" so was John Betjeman's poem, "Slough", pleading "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!"

He also asked whether Shakespeare would have been prosecuted if he had tweeted his line from Henry VI, Part 2 (Act IV, Scene 2), "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers".

The latter reportedly drew laughter from the judges.

On 27 June, the judges announced a reserved judgement and Chambers arrived at court accompanied by Stephen Fry and Al Murray.

Chambers's conviction was quashed on 27 July 2012.

The approved judgement concluded that "a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or who may reasonably be expected to see it, falls outside this provision [of the 2003 Act]". Accordingly, the appeal against conviction was "allowed on the basis that this 'tweet' did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character".

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The call has also gone out to TV comedians David Walliams and Matt Lucas who filmed their 2010 series Come Fly With Me at the airport.

Doncaster has been used for the filming of a number of TV shows and films down the years, including Yorkshire farming soap Emmerdale and Chris Morris movie Four Lions.

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