The Twitter “Bomb Hoax” case: worse than we thought?

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  • Dear Anonymous,

    I am not in fact a lawyer. I am merely a concerned citizen who has expert knowledge of web communications systems and understands enough about how they are used to know that this sort of thing will happen all the time if a decision like this is allowed to stand. I have seen the evidence. Indeed, there is very little evidence to see. That single tweet has now been removed; however, it has been recorded. The examples you offer are targeted forms of communication. These are very different from nondirected general comments made for exaggerated effect. Nobody was specifically threatened by Paul's speech. He used some literary devices (unbeknownst to him) to convey a mood. These devices include hyperbole and a colloquial style. The way the CPS have applied the Communications Act threatens all manner of electronic free speech. I can easily see how I might one day accidentally fall into the trap that Paul did. In fact I belive I already have although I was never called on it. If you don't think it can happen to you then I'll venture that you're not very familiar with open ended communcations tools.

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  • Wonderful language in s51 (2) . So if one were to communicate a false bomb threat with the intention of creating a "real" belief then would that not be an offence under this section?

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  • This thread is really chilling. Not the original trivial act that led to it. Not only the fact that charges with potentially serious consequences for the rest of this bloke's life have been laid for what was at worst an injudicious expression in the heat of the moment.

    What *is* chilling are the contributions of Marianne and at least one of her supporters. They are fully entitled to their views. The fact that they go against the majority is to be welcomed in any society valuing free speech.

    However they prefix their remarks by remarking that the other contributors are not lawyers, with the implicit suggestion that therefore they either should not be commenting, or that their comments are to be devalued on that basis. ( If that is not the intended message, why include the 'you are not lawyers' bit at all? )

    Are we *really* at the stage where a lawyer is the only person properly entitled to comment about the fairness, the usefulness, the constructiveness about the application of laws? We are not discussing some abstruse legal argument here that needs a QC and a huge trolley of law books. It is a simple issue of how we want the laws, which supposedly are there to serve *us*, the general public, are being applied. And this should be disparaged if visited by anybody but a lawyer? God help us ... where is this conversation taking place? China? Iran? North Korea?

    Shakespeare was right. I'm not going to say exactly what he was right about, in case I get arrested. But he had some ideas about lawyers. ( Obviously excluding our most esteemed Jack of Kent )

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  • To Anonymous of 4.34pm on 11 March - if the bomb threat is not genuine, the belief in it is inevitably going to be a false belief.

    Making a communication with the intention of inducing a "true" belief that a bomb has been planted would be a warning, not a hoax!

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  • From the CPS: "A more serious charge under section 51 Criminal Law Act 1977 was considered but was not felt to be appropriate as there was no evidence that he intended to induce in the recipient a false belief there really was a bomb.”

    I don't get it...either the CPS are saying that the menacing message did not relate to a bomb or other explosive device (I'm not sure what else 'blown sky high' could be), or they are saying there is no evidence that there was intent to induce in the recipient the false belief that the airport would be blown sky high (in which case, what is menacing about the message if it was not intended to be believed?).

    ps re. penultimate paragraph of the article - presumably this should read 'charged' rather than 'convicted'.

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  • Perspective: Go and type "I'm going to kill" in to twitter's search ...

    CPS aren't going to be able to lay off staff anytime soon.

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  • Great analysis with one flaw: quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes and his idiotic "fire" statement does not, in any way, strengthen the point you are making.

    By making falsely shouting "Fire" illegal you are criminalising fire alarm tests. A Theatre should have procedures in place to safely and calmly evacuate all people from their premises should a real fire occur. The worst that could be said of a person falsely shouting "fire" is that they were causing a nuisance. In that case they should be ejected (and banned) from the business.

    Besides which, Holmes was banning criticism of the draft which is an absolutely totalitarian act that should not be defended in any way.

    Other than that, great article.

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  • Both the police and CPS, not for the first time, seem to lack a clear understanding of what is meant by 'public interest', which I understand broadly to mean 'public good'. The police in particular seem very keen to push to the max any case that is subject to intense public scrutiny or curiosity, irrespective of its actual merits or contribution to justice in general.

    There seems to be a policy that it's better for five ridiculous cases to go to court than for one very marginal but appropriate one to slip through the net, lest the press or the odd tenacious MP make their lives a (potentially expensive) misery. A rather bland pen-pushers attitude to the law, I think, but very very New Labour in its thinking.

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  • . . . . . (2) A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—
    (a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,. . . . . . .
    So in otherwords anybody who posts anything they do not know to absolutely true, that someone else could construe to be annoying, could find themselves prosecuted under this premise.
    A horse walked in to a bar. . . . . FALSE
    I would put my opinion of the CPS here, but I can't risk doing time. . . . . .
    At any rate, it would appear that "Terrorists" have achieved a definite win by instilling a debilitating condition in to the Britain Institution.

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  • These creepy Kafkaesque measures used by the CPS make me wonder if they are trying to clamp down on free speach on the internet. A few years ago a neighbour holding a lump hammer and a yard away from me threatened to kill me. The threat was immediate but the police said it was neighbour banter and did not see it as a threat even though my life had been threatened and my property damaged.
    So how can my case be treated as unimportant and a man on twitter seen as a menace. It strikes me the CPS and police would rather pick on the innocent than tackle real crime.

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