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Clarify section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (online free speech)

Comment 17th March 2018

Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 has been used recently to prosecute a man who used Twitter to make a remark that was incorrectly interpreted as a threat to plant a bomb at an airport. Paul Chambers was found guilty of sending a menacing message under paragraph 1 of this act. There has been debate about whether or not mens rea (guilty mind) must be proven in order to convict. This needs to be clarified such that the provision requires mens rea, and that mens rea must be in the context of targeting a particular person or group.

Why does this matter?

Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are basic human rights protected by the Human Rights Act 1998 and the European Convention on Human Rights. The interpretation of the Communications Act that the Crown Prosecution Service applied to the case of Paul Chambers is likely to have a widespread chilling effect on protected free speech. I have written about this in my letter of complaint to the CPS, which can be found here: http://flay.jellybee.co.uk/2010/05/paul-chambers-cps-and-me.html

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