Tommy Robinson encouraged `vigilante action´ in trial broadcast,…

Tommy Robinson ‘incited vigilante action’ on grooming gang defendants by filming Facebook video that was seen by 3.4m people in 24 hours, rule High Court judges as they give reasons for contempt of court guilty verdict

  • Stephen Yaxley-Lennon committed contempt of court during hour-long video
  • He confronted members of an Asian sex gang as jury considered verdicts 
  • High Court judges convicted him for ‘aggressively confronting’ defendants
  • Robinson will be sentenced at the old Bailey on Thursday and could be jailed 

Tommy Robinson streamed an hour-long Facebook Live an Asian sex gang trial outside Leeds Crown Court in May last year, which also captured the moment he was arrested

Tommy Robinson ‘incited vigilante action’ against an Asian sex gang and was a threat to their ‘fair trial’ by making an hour-long video watched by 3.4million people in 24 hours, High Court judges ruled today. 

The former English Defence League (EDL) founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found to have committed contempt of court at the end of a two-day hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday.

Two High Court judges convicted him for ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ defendants outside Leeds Crown Court while the jury considered its verdicts.

He will be sentenced on Thursday – and could be jailed for up to two years. 

In the Facebook live video Robinson tells viewers: ‘You want to harass someone’s family? You see that man who was getting aggressive as he walked into court, the man who faces charges of child abduction, rape, prostitution – harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing’.

His arrest on the steps of the court was also caught on camera.

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, in breach of a reporting ban, in May 2018.

Giving reasons for the decision on Tuesday, Dame Victoria said that, while Robinson claimed his intention was to ‘denounce the media’ for their behaviour towards him and others, the words he used in the video would have been understood by viewers as ‘an incitement’ to harass the defendants.

Tommy Robinson greets supporters as he arrives at the Old Bailey, where he will return on Thursday for sentencing

In a written ruling, the judge said: ‘In our judgment, those words and the manner of their delivery were an encouragement to others to harass a defendant by finding him, knocking on his door, following him, and watching him, and this gave rise to a real risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded.’

Tommy Robinson begs Donald Trump to give him US asylum over fears ‘Jihadi gangs will murder him’ 

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has begged Donald Trump to give him asylum in the US 

Tommy Robinson today begged Donald Trump to give him asylum in the US claiming being sent to a British jail would be a ‘death sentence’.

The former English Defence League leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, could face jail again for interfering with the trial of an Asian sex gang at Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

Two High Court judges found him guilty of contempt of court at the Old Bailey last week – which carries up to two years in jail – for ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ defendants while the jury considered its verdicts. 

Ahead of the sentencing on Thursday, Robinson pleaded with President Trump to let him live in America, saying being sent to prison in the UK would be like a ‘death sentence’.  

He told the far-right InfoWars website: ‘I beg Donald Trump, I beg the American government, to look at my case. I need evacuation from this country because dark forces are at work.

‘This is a direct appeal on behalf of my family – we love the United States, I have no future here [in Britain]. The country has fallen.’

He added: ‘I feel like I’m two days away from being sentenced to death’. 

 

She added: ‘All of this has to be assessed in the context of the video as a whole, in which the respondent approves and encourages vigilante action.

‘We are sure that what the respondent said in this passage will have been understood by a substantial number of viewers as an incitement to engage in harassment of the defendants.’

In a video broadcast live on Facebook by Tommy Robinson from outside Leeds Crown Court on May 25 2018, he told viewers that a trial was on going and that it was the second of three trials.

The former English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, then read out the names of the defendants and the charges they faced, gave information about the alleged offending and said the jury was considering verdicts.

During one passage that was streamed live to his followers, Robinson told viewers: ‘Now, there is a reporting restriction on this case so there has already been stage one of the trial.’

In another part of the video, Robinson discussed the leader of far-right group Generation Identity, whose family he claimed had been harassed by the media. 

‘You want to stick pictures online and call people and slander people, how about you do it about them?’

Later in the broadcast he rhetorically asked viewers why there were not dozens of national media outside court, saying ‘why are they not trying to approach these criminals or show where they live or show where they work or show what they’re doing or why, why, why, why…?’

Dame Victoria Sharp said in the court’s ruling that these passages had to be ‘assessed in the context of the video as a whole’, in which Robinson ‘approves and encourages vigilante action’.

He also confronted a number of the defendants, and one person he wrongly believed to be a defendant, as they arrived at court.

The case put forward on behalf of Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC was that Robinson followed the defendants ‘as far as he could without stepping onto court property’, filmed them and questioned them in ‘provocative and aggressive terms’.

The anti-Islam campaigner was released from prison last year but could now being going back

Why Tommy Robinson was previously 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.

Robinson described himself as ‘reporting on’ the trial and ‘spoke in terms that can have left viewers in no doubt that he believed the defendants ought to be convicted’.

He also gave ‘graphic and disturbing’ examples of other historic sexual offences committed by Muslim men and suggested that ‘sexual slaves’ are allowed, if not encouraged, by Islam as a religion.

The video was viewed by 250,000 people by the time of Robinson’s arrest and by the following day had been seen by 3.4 million people after being widely shared online.

Lawyers for two of the defendants applied unsuccessfully for the jury to be discharged on May 26, relying on the way Robinson had confronted the defendants and the allegedly prejudicial nature of what had been said.

One of the defendants later went on the run after a protest against Robinson’s arrest and imprisonment, held outside Leeds Crown Court on June 1, was advertised in advance.

There was a further application to discharge the jury based on the effects of the demonstration, which was rejected by the judge, and the jury returned their verdicts on June 5, finding the defendants guilty on all counts. 

Dame Victoria said the dangers of using the ‘unmoderated platforms’ of social media, with its ‘unparalleled speed and reach’, are obvious and that Robinson’s conduct created a risk that the defendants would be intimidated.

She added: ‘In this case, the respondent was engaged in the agitation of members of the public in respect of what he presented as a serious threat to society.

‘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.

Supporters of Tommy Robinson clash with police outside the Old Bailey after he lost his case

‘It is not necessary to assess the level of risk that such conduct would in fact be engaged in, beyond concluding that it was real and substantial.

‘Furthermore, there was plainly a real risk that the defendants awaiting jury verdicts would see themselves as at risk, feel intimidated, and that this would have a significant adverse impact on their ability to participate in the closing stages of the trial.

‘That in itself would represent a serious impediment to the course of justice.’  

Timeline of the Tommy Robinson contempt of court case 

May 25, 2018: Robinson is jailed for 13 months for contempt of court after Facebook Live protest outside a trial in Leeds.

May 27, 2018: Sentence sparks protests in London including outside Downing Street.

July 18, 2018: Robinson launches appeal.

August 1, 2018: Judges order his release and say he must face new hearing.

September 27, 2018: A new contempt of court case at the Old Bailey is adjourned after Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC asks for written submissions from all parties.

October 19, 2018: The Huddersfield grooming case is fully reported after the conclusion of all the trials.

October 23, 2018: After considering submissions, judge says case is ‘too complex’ and evidence must be considered by Attorney General.

March 7, 2019: Attorney General decides the case should be reheard.

May 14, 2019: High Court judges rule he will face new contempt of court proceedings 

July 5, 2019: Robinson is found guilty and faces jail again 

The judges also found that Robinson was ‘quite deliberately’ reporting on the case, which he had told his viewers was the subject of a reporting restriction, and rejected his evidence that he had made checks in the court as ‘not credible’.

Dame Victoria said Robinson’s right to freedom of expression ‘could not justify an interference with fair trial rights’.

She added: ‘The rule of law demands that those who act in such a way as to subvert due process should be held to account, whether or not they actually threaten the fairness of the end result.

‘These are essential principles which must be given weight in a democratic society.

‘On the facts of this case the weight to be given to these valuable principles comfortably exceeds that to be given to forms of expression used by the respondent such as ‘How are you feeling about your verdict?’ or ‘You got your prison bag with you?’.’

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.

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