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Second Briton may face charges over Twitter joke

A Birmingham councillor has become the second Briton to find himself in police custody after posting a 'joke' message on Twitter.

Gareth Compton, councillor for Erdington, was arrested and then bailed by West Midlands police today after allegedly calling for the death of a newspaper columnist on the micro-blogging site.

Compton's tweet, which reportedly said "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan't tell Amnesty if you don't. It would be a blessing, really", was sent after he heard the journalist on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The message has since been removed from the site.

Compton's arrest followed a complaint to the police by Alibhai-Brown, who said she regarded his comments as incitement to murder.

The columnnist, who writes for the Evening Standard and the Independent, told the Guardian newspaper: "You just don't do this. I have a lot of threats on my life. It's incitement. I'm going to the police - I want them to know that a law's been broken."

Alibhai-Brown also alleges the reference to stoning added a racist dimension to the message.

Following Compton's arrest, a spokeswoman for West Midlands Police told news agency Associated Press:

"We can confirm a 38-year-old man from Harborne has been arrested for an offence under section 127 (1a) of the Communications Act of 2003 on suspicion of sending an offensive or indecent message. He has been bailed pending further inquiries."

The councillor later apologised in several further messages posted on Twitter, saying: "I did not 'call' for the stoning of anybody. I made an ill-conceived attempt at humour in response to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown saying on Radio 5 Live this morning that no politician had the right to comment on human rights abuses, even the stoning of women in Iran. I apologise for any offence caused. It was wholly unintentional."

Compton was suspended by the Conservative Party following his arrest. A party spokesman said: "Language of this sort is not acceptable and as a result Gareth Compton's membership of the Conservative Party has been indefinitely suspended pending further investigation."

The Tory councillor's arrest comes on the same day that Paul Chambers, a former trainee accountant from Doncaster, returned to court to appeal his conviction in May of "menaces" following a 'joke' tweet sent in protest at airport delays.

Chambers was fined a total of £1,000 after telling his 600 followers: "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!"