Dozens of Tommy Robinson supporters gathered outside the Old Bailey today as he arrived to be sentenced for contempt of court over a video he broadcast online which featured defendants in a criminal trial.
The former English Defence League (EDL) founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found to have committed contempt of court following a two-day hearing at the Old Bailey last week.
His supporters, including five women on mobility scooters, waved Union flags outside the court in London today amid a heavy police presence as people chanted his name and ‘We want Tommy out’.
Tommy Robinson arrives at the Old Bailey this morning be sentenced for contempt of court over a video he broadcast online
Supporters of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson at the Old Bailey in London today ahead of his sentencing
One supporter of Robinson carried a sign today reading: ‘The Nazis blindly followed orders. Will the police do the same’
A man with a microphone addressed the crowd today, saying: ‘We’re here for Tommy Robinson’ and ‘Leave our Tommy alone’
A man with a microphone addressed the crowd, saying: ‘We’re here for Tommy Robinson’ and ‘Leave our Tommy alone’. One supporter carried a sign reading: ‘The Nazis blindly followed orders. Will the police do the same.’
Robinson supporters, who also included a man wearing a Union flag suit, chanted ‘Shame on you’ as police officers surrounded a man and marched him away this morning.
Why Tommy Robinson was found in contempt of court and what it means
Why was Tommy Robinson jailed in May 2018?
Robinson was jailed after a judge at Leeds Crown Court found him in contempt of court in May.
The judge determined that Robinson’s broadcasting of a video online breached a court order which postponed any reporting of a trial until the conclusion of another, linked, trial.
He was jailed within five hours of the video being filmed and posted online.
He was previously given a suspended sentence for contempt at Canterbury Crown Court, when a judge told him it was likely he would go to prison if he engaged in similar conduct in future.
What is contempt of court?
Contempt of court law exists to ensure the fairness and integrity of criminal trials.
Where a judge believes there is a ‘substantial risk of serious prejudice’ to a defendant, an order may be made under the Contempt of Court Act which postpones the reporting of a trial until its conclusion.
When making such an order, a judge has to balance the interests of justice in a fair trial taking place with other interests – including free speech and open justice.
In most cases where someone is alleged to be in contempt of court, the matter will be referred to the Attorney General.
Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby found Robinson was in contempt in three respects when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage on Facebook, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.
Giving reasons for the decision on Tuesday, Dame Victoria said Robinson encouraged ‘vigilante action’ in the video, which lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times on the morning of the broadcast.
The judge said the words he used in the video would have been understood by viewers as ‘an incitement’ to harass the defendants and ‘gave rise to a real risk the course of justice would be seriously impeded’.
Throughout the Old Bailey hearing, Robinson denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not believe he was breaching reporting restrictions and only referred to information that was already in the public domain.
But Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby found he was in contempt by breaching the reporting restriction imposed on the trial, by live-streaming the video from outside the public entrance to the court and by ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ some of the defendants.
A number of Robinson’s supporters who gathered outside the court on Thursday and Friday reacted angrily after the result was announced.
Robinson, 36, from Luton, Bedfordshire, broadcast the footage while the jury in the second of a series of linked grooming trials was considering its verdict.
The video was eventually viewed 3.4 million times after being shared following his arrest.
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.
Robinson (right, pictured in London after the court finding last Friday) was found to have been in contempt when he filmed men accused of sexual exploitation and live-streamed the footage on Facebook outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018 (left)
Robinson was jailed for 13 months after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast.
He served two months in jail before being freed after the original finding of contempt was overturned by the Court of Appeal in August 2018.
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.
Anyone found in contempt of court can be jailed for up to two years, receive an unlimited fine, or both.
In an appearance on the far-right conspiracy theory website InfoWars on Monday, Robinson asked US President Donald Trump to grant him asylum in America, claiming he faced being killed in prison if he was jailed.
Timeline of event’s leading to the contempt sentencing
Two High Court judges are set to sentence Tommy Robinson for contempt of court, which he committed by filming defendants in a criminal trial and broadcasting the footage on social media. The English Defence League founder’s case is listed under his real name of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, and he will be sentenced at the Old Bailey today. Here is a timeline of how the case got to this stage.
– May 22 2017: Robinson is given a three-month suspended sentence at Canterbury Crown Court after being found in contempt of court. He had been filming on the steps of the court and inside the building during the trial of four men for rape. The filming took place while the jury was out considering its verdicts. In two pieces to camera, he described the trial as being of ‘Muslim child rapists’.
– May 25 2018: Robinson is found in contempt of court for a second time after recording himself outside Leeds Crown Court. In the video, which was live-streamed on Facebook and lasted for about an hour and a half, he discussed a trial of members of a Huddersfield grooming gang. The trial was covered by a reporting restriction banning publication of any details until after the end of several linked trials. The video was viewed 250,000 times on the morning of the broadcast. Judge Geoffrey Marson QC jails Robinson for 13 months, including the earlier three-month term.
– August 1 2018: The Court of Appeal overturns the finding of contempt made at Leeds Crown Court following a legal challenge. Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett rules Judge Marson’s decision to deal with the contempt finding so quickly ‘gave rise to unfairness’. Robinson is released from HMP Onley in Rugby the same day, after serving two months. The court refers the case to the Old Bailey for reconsideration.
– October 23 2018: Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard QC refers the case back to Attorney General Geoffrey Cox. After initially ruling he could deal with the matter himself, Judge Hilliard changes his mind after receiving a letter from Robinson which he said made clearer the ‘nature and extent of the controversies’ in the case.
– March 7 2019: The Attorney General decides it is in the public interest to bring fresh contempt proceedings over the Leeds Crown Court incident. Mr Cox says in a statement: ‘After carefully considering the details of this case, I have concluded there are strong grounds to bring fresh contempt of court proceedings against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).’
– March 19 2019: A hearing due to take place on March 22 is postponed until May following a request by Robinson’s lawyers.
– May 14 2019: High Court judges grant permission for the Attorney General to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson following a hearing at the Old Bailey. Hundreds of his supporters gather outside court, as well as a counter-demonstration organised by Stand Up To Racism.
– July 4 2019: The hearing of the Attorney General’s application to commit Robinson to prison for alleged contempt begins at the Old Bailey in front of High Court judges.
– July 5 2019: Robinson is found in contempt of court for filming defendants as they arrived at Leeds Crown Court. Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Warby, found Robinson in contempt in three respects. She said he was in contempt by breaching the reporting restriction imposed on the trial, by live-streaming the video from outside the public entrance to the court and by ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ some of the defendants.
– July 9 2019: The High Court gives its reasons for finding Robinson in contempt of court, stating that he encouraged ‘vigilante action’ against the defendants when he filmed them and broadcast the footage live on Facebook. Dame Victoria Sharp found Robinson had incited his viewers to harass the defendants, adding: ‘His words had a clear tendency to encourage unlawful physical or verbal aggression towards identifiable targets. Harassment of the kind he was describing could not be justified.’
– July 11 2019: Robinson is due at the Old Bailey to face sentencing for contempt of court. He faces up to two years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.