Tommy Robinson's former employer investigated by police over potential contempt of court at Old Bailey

City of London Police investigating whether offence was committed with video from inside court

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 27 September 2018 17:21 BST
Tommy Robinson arrives at Old Bailey court to large crowd of supporters

A key supporter of Tommy Robinson may have committed contempt of court while covering the far-right leader’s hearing.

Ezra Levant, who used to employ Robinson at his right-wing website Rebel Media, filmed inside the Old Bailey on Thursday.

He posted footage on social media showing Robinson going to a court window to look at a crowd of supporters protesting below, shouting “we want Tommy out”.

The same clip was later shared on Robinson’s official Facebook page and watched hundreds of thousands of times.

It is illegal to take photographs or film inside courts in England and Wales, or in their “precincts”, and Robinson himself was convicted of the offence last year.

A spokesperson for City of London Police confirmed they were investigating Mr Levant’s video.

“We have been made aware of a video on social media which appears to show filming taking place inside the Central Criminal Court [Old Bailey], and has been shared online,” a statement said.

“We will be looking into whether any offences have been committed.”

Mr Levant, a Canadian alt-right activist, has been crowdfunding for Robinson since he was jailed at Leeds Crown Court in May and travelling to London to “report” on the continuing case.

A previous Court of Appeal hearing heard that Robinson had attended media law training with other members of Rebel Media, while working for the site in June 2017. It was unclear if Mr Levant underwent the same training or what it included.

Robinson has since left the website and uses money donated by supporters to produce his own videos.

The English Defence League founder thanked Mr Levant for his support ahead of Thursday’s hearing, which was adjourned so the judge can take submissions from lawyers on how the case should proceed.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London, released Robinson on bail until the next court date, which could be in October.

Addressing him by his real name, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the judge said: “Your bail will continue on the same terms as before and when the next hearing takes place you are required to attend as a condition of your bail.

“If you do not attend the case will go ahead without you and that will not be in your interest.”

News of Robinson's continuing freedom was greeted with jubilation by hundreds of his supporters who gathered outside the court under the watchful eye of police.

Some waved banners for groups including Ukip, Anne Marie Waters' For Britain party and the far-right group Generation Identity, while one man donned t-shirt reading “rivers of blood” in possible reference to Enoch Powell's speech.

Many of Robinson's supporters were holding their own signs, reading “no to Sharia law”, attacking the “fake news media” and calling for “freedom of speech”.

As tensions rose, officials at the Old Bailey shut the main entrance used by lawyers, jurors and journalists, and later had to scrub human faeces off the door.

(Getty )
(Getty ) (Getty)

Anti-media sentiment ran strongly through the crowd, with Robinson supporters filming journalists as photographers were verbally abused, pushed and shoved.

City of London Police said one person was arrested for breach of the peace during the demonstrations but did not have any further information.

Protesters vowed to return to the Old Bailey for Robinson's next hearing, where Judge Hilliard will decide how the case will proceed and where.

A judge will later consider allegations that Robinson “published a matter which is likely to cause contempt of court” during ongoing trials in Leeds.

He was originally jailed for 13 months over a Facebook Live video he broadcast from outside the city’s crown court in May, but the findings were overturned last month and he was freed.

Court of Appeal judges ordered a rehearing, saying the “alleged contempt was serious and the sentence might be longer than that already served”.

Robinson is also accused of breaching the conditions of a three-month suspended sentence he was handed for a separate contempt offence in Canterbury in 2017.

The 35-year-old was prosecuted for attempting to film defendants at Canterbury Crown Court, despite notices stating the move is illegal all over the building.

Judge Heather Norton sentenced Robinson to three months’ imprisonment but suspended the sentence for 18 months, meaning it would not come into effect unless he committed further offences. His lawyers had claimed he was ignorant of the filming ban.

“You will now be under no illusions whatsoever as to what you can and cannot do,” the judge told Robinson at the time.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC activated the sentence at Leeds Crown Court in May and added 10 months after finding Robinson had committed a new contempt by breaching reporting restrictions on ongoing trials.

But he was released from prison after an appeal last month, when high-profile backers including the Ukip leader Gerard Batten, Dutch opposition leader Geert Wilders and the former Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam hailed the verdict as a victory for “freedom of speech”

The Court of Appeal found that procedural failings by the judge who jailed Robinson at Leeds Crown Court “gave rise to unfairness” and ordered the matter be reheard at the Old Bailey.

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