Tommy Robinson faces up to two years in prison after judges rule him in contempt of court

Far-right activist breached reporting restrictions by 'aggressively confronting and filming' defendants in grooming trial, rule judges 

Chris Baynes
Old Bailey
,Peter Stubley
Friday 05 July 2019 17:13
Tommy Robinson arrives at the Old Bailey for contempt of court hearing

Tommy Robinson is facing a prison sentence after being found in contempt of court for “aggressively confronting and filming” defendants outside a criminal trial.

Two High Court judges ruled he had breached reporting restrictions by livestreaming footage of men accused of sexually exploiting young girls at Leeds Crown Court in May last year.

The former leader of the English Defence League also interfered with the course of justice by intimidating defendants as they entered the building, the judges concluded on Friday, following a two-day hearing at the Old Bailey.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, denied wrongdoing and claimed he had only referred to information that was already in the public domain.

But Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby found him in contempt in three respects.

The judges ruled Robinson, 36, had breached reporting restrictions imposed on the trial by livestreaming video from outside the public entrance to the court and by “aggressively confronting and filming” some of the defendants.

They added the content of the video “gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice in that case would be seriously impeded” and the confrontation of the defendants was a direct interference with the course of justice.

“In our judgment, the respondent’s conduct in each of those respects amounted to a serious interference with the administration of justice,” said Dame Victoria.

The judges will give detailed reasoning for their ruling when they sentence Robinson at a later date.

Robinson, wearing a blue jacket, blue shirt and jeans, showed little reaction as the judges announced the decision.

But, outside the court, his supporters howled with anger and chanted “shame on you” as the news filtered through. A small number marched purposefully towards the court’s entrance, which was guarded by police, to voice their rage.

Police raised their batons after some supporters attempted to storm fences and hurled beer cans at journalists.

After leaving court, Robinson climbed onto a stage before a crowd of cheering supporters: “I’ve been convicted ‘cos of who I am, not what I’ve done.’’

In a message issued over the Telegram app, Robinson misrepresented contempt of court to suggest photographers who took pictures of him entering the Old Bailey should also face action.

He wrote: “This is the biggest political stitch up we have ever seen. So every single journalist that photographed Tommy going into this court – are they going to be in the Old Bailey and getting guilty of contempt of court?

“This is the biggest case of ‘one rule for Tommy’ and one for everyone else.”

Supporters of Tommy Robinson clash with police outside the Old Bailey after he was found guilty of contempt of court

Robinson was found to be in contempt over footage broadcast on 25 May 2018 while the jury in the second of a series of linked grooming trials was considering its verdict.

A reporting restriction was in place which postponed the publication of any details of the case until the end of all the trials involving 29 people, in a bid to ensure all defendants received a fair trial.

The video lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times after being livestreamed on Facebook.

Robinson, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 13 months last May after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast.

He served two months in jail before being freed after that finding of contempt was overturned by the Court of Appeal in August.

But the case was then referred back to the attorney general, who announced in March that it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson.

Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby gave permission for the attorney general to bring a new case against Robinson at a hearing in May.

Speaking after Friday’s ruling, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said: “Posting material online that breaches reporting restrictions or risks prejudicing legal proceedings is a very serious matter and this is reflected in the court’s decision today.

“I would urge everyone to think carefully about whether their social media posts could amount to contempt of court.”

Robinson’s sentencing hearing has been provisionally set for 11 July, depending on the availability of a medical expert to assess him.

Contempt of court carries a maximum sentence of two years.

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