Thursday, 3 June 2010

Paul Chambers is Appealing

Paul Chambers has now lodged an appeal at Doncaster Crown Court.

He will be appealing his (in my view) wrongful conviction under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for sending an ill-conceived joke on Twitter.

The appeal will probably be heard in July or August.

(Paul has kindly asked me to help co-ordinate his appeal.)

If the Crown Court appeal is unsuccessful, then there can then be an appeal to the High Court, and so on until he is finally acquitted, or until he exhausts the entire appeal process.

Paul will continue to have Richard Haigh as his solicitor.

In my view, Richard did a good job in getting Paul's original plea of guilty vacated, and he also could not have done better at the main hearing; he is certainly blameless for both the misconceived prosecution and the disgraceful and illiberal judgment of the Magistrates' Court.

However, the appeal will now be primarily undertaken by the awesomely formidable Stephen Ferguson, one of the United Kingdom's best and most sought-after defence and appellate barristers.

Paul and his legal team will also have support pro bono from myself and Andrew Sharpe (who tweets as @TMT_lawyer) in respect of the Communications Act 2003.

Further information on the grounds of appeal will be set out on this blog before the appeal hearing.

The monies contributed to Paul's defence and appeal fund are now to be placed in a formal trust fund. You can contribute and see details here.

The fund will be used for Paul's legal fees for his defence and appeal, and also for his and his partner's travelling and accommodation costs necessary for the appeal(s). The fund be administered transparently and very strictly, and accounts will be published. Any surplus will go to a charity of Paul's choice. I will provide further information on the trust fund in due course.

I think we can be optimistic for Paul's chances on appeal, but that sadly is not a certainty.

There is still a lot of work to be done so that this injustice can be remedied.


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


Flay said...

I'm sure Richard Haigh did an decent job; however, I was surprised that not a single witness was called for the defense apart from the defendant himself. The judge chose not to believe that a reasonable person might consider Paul's tweet anything other than menacing. We all now know that there are many reasonable people better qualified to judge mens rea in this case than the judge was (unbeknownst to himself). Nor did the defense attempt to argue that s127(1) doesn't apply given that neither the Internet nor Twitter are publicly funded networks. I'm no lawyer but I find the defense somewhat disappointing.

Lifewish said...

Do you know if there's a way to get money to Paul without using Paypal? I don't have an account and from what I've heard of them I'd rather not get one.

As an actuarial student I really sympathise with Paul over the effect this conviction will have on his accountancy career. I can't imagine how I'd feel if a techno-newb judge decided to destroy my future over a throwaway comment taken out of context.

Anyway, whenever anyone says accountants don't have a sense of humour, at least we can point them to this story as an explanation...

Dan said...

Get a friend to donate then!

This is a rare chance to be able to directly affect what rights you have in the society you live in, given that the democratic process is so tortuous.

I hope I am right in assuming that a successful appeal here will actually limit the ability of the CPS to abuse Section 127 in a similar way.

We have the 1977 "bomb hoax" offence for real threats.

Niklas said...

Excellent news! I do hope the conviction is overturned; with any luck having a jury might make the trial a bit more sensible. I'm glad I donated to the fund - everyone who is reading this please donate too!

Tom Evans said...

I can't afford much but I have made a small donation. Really hope this is succesful.

@Niklas - appeals from magistrates are not heard with a jury, AIUI, they are heard before a judge and two magistrates.

Niklas said...

@Tom Evans: I thought the whole point of the automatic right of appeal from the Magistrates' Court to the Crown Court was to enable all defendants to be tried by a jury if they wanted to be?

Isn't it only appeals heard by the Court of Appeal that are heard by a panel of judges?

Chris said...

@Nicklas: No there is no automatic right to trial by jury in ALL cases.
There are three types of criminal charge; indictable only (must be heard in a Crown Court (with a jury if the defendant pleads Not Guilty)), either-way offences (can be heard in the Crown Court OR magistrates court, and summary offences that can only be tried in the magistrates court.
This was a summary offence (usually less serious) and so dealt with by the magistrates court. It was heard by a District Judge which used to be called a Stipendary Magistrate (i.e. a professional lawyer as opposed to lay magistrates, trained members of the community.)

It is actually very few charges that result in jury trials.

A guide to courts can be found here;

liverpool lawyer said...

I found this post really interesting. Good luck.

James Firth said...

It's been floated many times now but the UK could do with a digital rights defence fund. Maybe consideration could be given to this by Paul should there be any surplus.

As a blogger I'd be happy to contribute a regular sum to a fund that is strictly aimed at helping bloggers with legal costs.

Only with a viable opposing force can the powerful and wealthy be deterred from making baseless legal threats, and similarly the police and prosecution be persuaded to consider carefully the legal merits of a prosecution before proceeding (not referring to this case specifically but in general).

Such a fund might also be able to help with legal costs for those faced with search and seizure of servers etc.