Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Tommy Robinson: Judge to decide whether to jail EDL founder again for contempt of court next week

Hundreds of supporters expected to gather at Old Bailey after heated protests at previous hearing 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 16 October 2018 13:19 BST
Tommy Robinson arrives at Old Bailey court to large crowd of supporters

A judge will decide whether to jail Tommy Robinson for contempt of court for a second time next week.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London, said the case would be heard on 23 October at the Old Bailey.

In a 30-second procedural hearing, the judge said he had decided not to refer the matter to the Attorney General for him to consider whether or not to institute proceedings.

“I will hear the matter myself on 23 October as ordered by the Court of Appeal," he said.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, did not attend the hearing.

Last month, Judge Hilliard invited representatives of Robinson and prosecutors to make written submissions on whether there should be a “substantive hearing” and how it should proceed.

That hearing saw hundreds of the English Defence League (EDL) founder’s supporters descend on the Old Bailey, chanting his name in the street outside the court and clashing with counter-protesters amid a heavy police presence.

Tommy Robinson being greeted by supporters after a contempt hearing was adjourned at the Old Bailey on 27 September (Getty)

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”.

But that freedom was not applied to counter-demonstrators, who were shouted down and labelled “scum”, or for a woman holding a placard listing Robinson’s previous criminal offences.

City of London Police said one person was arrested for breach of the peace and they are also investigating whether an offence was committed by one of Robinson’s key supporters.

Ezra Levant, the activist’s former employer at Canadian website Rebel Media, may have broken contempt of court laws himself by breaking the filming ban inside the Old Bailey.

Another demonstration is being planned for next week, when police are expected to repeat requests for surrounding bars and pubs to close or serve drinks in plastic for the day.

Judge Hilliard will 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 in August and he was freed on bail.

The Court of Appeal found that procedural failings “gave rise to unfairness” and meant proceedings were “fundamentally flawed”.

But 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.

Contempt of court laws aim to ensure fair trials in Britain by preventing juries from being swayed by information from outside the hearing, and apply to all forms of online and offline publications.

The offences are covered by a “strict liability rule”, meaning that intent and knowledge of committing them are not necessary for a conviction.

While on bail awaiting the next hearing, Robinson triggered a furore over far-right sympathies in the British Army by posting footage of recruits he ran into at a motorway service station online.

At least one soldier has so far been discharged, while troops have been disciplined for inviting Robinson to their barracks following the incident.

It has sparked an online campaign, petition and merchandise by supporters of Robinson who see the Army investigation as a “political witch-hunt”.

The 35-year-old shared an audio recording claiming to show an Army major ordering soldiers not to support his message, or face discharge.

“I will not be associated with f***ing people like that, I take it as a f***ing personal affront,” he said.

“We fight people who oppress other people’s freedom of speech and thought because they’ve got a narrow-minded review of what the world should look like.

“This c*** - that’s exactly what he f***ing does.”

An Army spokesperson said anyone is in breach of the its values and standards would face administrative action, adding: “Far-right ideology is completely at odds with the values and ethos of the armed forces. The armed forces have robust measures in place to ensure those exhibiting extremist views are neither tolerated nor permitted to serve.”

It came months after the Army launched a new recruitment campaign aiming to address concerns about discrimination, which featured a Muslim soldier.

The Muslim Council of Britain said Robinson “does not represent our armed forces, however much he tries to claim otherwise”.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in