Monday, 17 May 2010

"Your foolishness": the sentence given to Paul Chambers

Below is the order of the court as to the sentence given to Paul Chambers.

This accompanied the disgraceful and illiberal judgment.

R v Paul John Chambers

1. I have found you guilty of one offence of sending a menacing message via a public communications network, contrary to Contrary to [sic] section 127(1)(A) and (3) of the Communications Act 2003. This was [for] one single, menacing posting on the "Twitter" social networking site. It was not seen for several days by anyone connected to the airport.

2. I find no aggravating features other than the offence itself.

3. I have heard evidence from the Airport security in the form of Mr Armson that when he saw this posting on 11th January n [sic] he regarded it as a non credible threat. He was amazed at how easy it was to find. However he noted that you had left your name. Non credible is the lowest threat assessment. He goes on to state that the threat did not affect the running of the airport.

4. I am obliged to take account of the Magistrates' Court sentencing guidelines, published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council. If I depart from these I have to give reasons. The entry point for an offence of this nature is a level B fine. This is based upon someone being convicted after trial and being of previous good character. You fall into both these categories. I shall follow the guidelines.

5. Furthermore you have lost your job as a result of your foolishness and had considerable un wanted [sic] publicity. Currently you have no income and are living upon your savings. You have had to fund your own legal defence. You are not eligible for legal aid.

6. For these reasons I shall fine you £385, £15 victim surcharge that I am obliged to impose, and you will pay the [prosecution] costs of £600. A total of £1000.

Jonathan Bennett
District Judge (Magistrates' Court)
10th May 2010


No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.

**No personal attacks on the judge or witnesses will be published**


twaza (@wassabeee on twitter) said...

"Victim surcharge of £15"

How much menacing is worth £15?

Who is the victim that will be compensated?

This sentence is even more menacing than I thought.

Lordyosch said...

Sheesh. "your threat wasn't threatening, had no effect on anything. You're a man of good character who has lost his job because of this. I'll charge you a grand"

Is common sense not part of legal procedure?

Flay said...

It is foolishness to suggest that Paul is the victim of his own foolishness.

bazzargh said...

A band B fine is 100% of your weekly income. How does that amount to £350 when the accused is unemployed? Shouldn't that have been £100?

twaza: the victim surcharge goes on all fines except fixed penalty notices, and funds victim compensation generally. It's a flat fee.

Andy said...

Wow - The number of typographic errors seems fitting.

Quick question though (sorry for asking here..) My understanding was Paul lost his job as a result of the criminal record.. This suggests otherwise. Can someone maybe refer me to a blog post or tweet that explains this?

Andrew said...

I've searched and failed to find the answer: what defines menacing? Or is there no precedent yet?

It seems to me the original post cannot reasonably be read as containing even a Beano of menace.

ObiterJ said...

Having found Mr Chambers guilty, a conditional discharge would have sufficed plus maybe a small contribution to costs bearing in mind that he is now unemployed. The slavish adherence to guidleines is getting rather worrying.

davidp said...

My inexperienced reading is that the judge emphasises that he is applying the minimum allowable punishment.
"I find no aggravating features other than the offence itself" ; "I am obliged to take account"; "victim surcharge that I am obliged to impose."
It seems consistent with a judge who believes that Paul Chambers has broken the law in the same with similar significance to inadvertantly getting a parking fine.

Moriarty yaffle said...

I am reminded very much of the fictional case of Rex v Haddock, courtesy of the masterful A P Herbert's Misleading cases in the common law.

"It may be said at once that in any case no blame attaches to the persons responsible for the framing of these charges, who were placed in the most difficult position by the appellant's unfortunate act, for it is a principle of English law that a person who appears in a police court has done something undesirable and citizens who take it upon themselves to do unusual actions which attract the attention of the police should be careful to bring these actions into one of the recognized categories of crimes and offences for it is intolerable that the police should be put to the pains of inventing reasons for finding them undesirable"

Frankly, the mens rea element here is utterly glossed over in the judgment. And if the courts are going to begin giving criminal records to everyone who meets the statutory criteria (if the mens rea is as homeopathically diluted as seems here), the courts are going to be extremely crowded places.

Of course, everyone who repeats the message on any form of electronic communication (the court having ruled that it was menacing) does so in the knowledge that it would be viewed as being menacing by the court, and they thus arguably commit the offence.

(If he'd sent the message to anyone at Robin Hood airport, I would be firmly in the "had it coming camp" by the way)

Ian K Rolfe said...

A year ago I was the victim of an unprovoked assault by 5 men, kicked to the ground and punched and kicked in the head until I passed out. This was done in front of a number of witnesses, all of whom were willing to testify. After considerable effort on the part of the police, the culprits were rounded up, charged and appeared in crown court. There they all pleaded guilty, and where given a conditional discharge, ordered to pay me £150 compensation and to pay £100 court costs.

Mr Chambers was fined £1000 for a twitter message that no-one found menacing.

There does seem to be something wrong in the justice system when a twitter message is seen to be four times worse than pushing someone to the ground and kicking the life out of them!