EDL founder Tommy Robinson jailed for contempt of court

01 June, 2018, 00:17 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson, who was listed on court documents by his real name Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, was detained outside Leeds Crown Court on Friday after using social media to broadcast details of an ongoing trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

His supporters insist freedom of speech is at stake, while critics say he was actually putting the successful outcome of criminal trials at risk.

Robinson, founder of the English Defence League - which he left in 2013 citing concerns over the "dangers of far-right extremism" - is a self-styled journalist and commentator who issues a steady stream of anti-Muslim statements online.

British activist and reporter Tommy Robinson was arrested last week for streaming outside a courthouse in Leeds, England via Facebook Live. In videos of the arrest, Robinson can be seen speaking into his cellular phone as he is arrested, and asking police officers for an explanation of why he was arrested. As he was already serving a suspended sentence for filming outside another trial in May past year, he was jailed for 13 months.

Robinson supporters gave speeches and held placards, calling for Robinson's freedom.

Reporting restrictions were also placed on details of Robinson's sentence but were lifted following a legal challenge on Tuesday.

"No one could possibly conclude that it would be anything other than highly prejudicial to the defendants in the trial", the judge said.

He is active in the global far-right, writing and broadcasting for Canadian far-right channel Rebel Media and his arrest on Friday on suspicion of breaching the peace outside a court in the United Kingdom attracted tweets of protest by right-wing activists and commentators around the world.

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His barrister, Matthew Harding, said Robinson now felt "deep regret" after realising the potential consequences of his actions.

Addressing Robinson, Judge Marson said: "I am not sure you appreciate the potential outcome of what you have done".

Journalists must be extremely careful with what they report during an active trial, so as not to fall under contempt. Published videos show Robinson walking past the accused rapists and goading them. Those jurors must then be dismissed, forcing a retrial.

"If I have to do that it will mean a re-trial, costing hundreds and hundreds and thousands of pounds".

The activist had already been given an 18 month suspended sentence for contempt of court during a rape trial in Canterbury in 2017.

Why has there been no coverage of Robinson's conviction until now?
He was jailed for mortgage fraud in 2014.

The far-right were also critical of the lack of media coverage of Robinson's conviction - which they claimed was proof of a conspiracy to silence him.

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