Tommy Robinson faces committal to prison over alleged contempt of court

Tommy Robinson will face a fresh court hearing over an allegation he committed contempt of court by filming defendants in a criminal trial and broadcasting footage on social media.

The former English Defence League (EDL) leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, served two months in jail before being freed after a finding of contempt was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

But two High Court judges gave permission for a new case to be brought against him at a hearing at the Old Bailey in London on Tuesday, following an application by the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC.

Tommy Robinson
Tommy Robinson

Lady Justice Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Warby, said an application to commit Robinson to prison will be heard at the Old Bailey on July 4 and 5.

She said reasons for their decision to grant permission on all of the grounds requested by the Attorney General will be given at a later date.

Robinson sat behind his lawyers in court wearing a light-grey jacket and blue shirt, having changed the white “Vote Tommy” t-shirt he was wearing when he entered the building.

The 36-year-old, from Luton, could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.

He was jailed for 13 months in May last year after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial at Leeds Crown Court and broadcast the footage on social media.

The sentence included three months for a contempt at Canterbury Crown Court in May 2017, which was suspended at the time.

But he was freed from prison after serving two months of his sentence after Court of Appeal judges quashed the finding of contempt made in Leeds.

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.

Tommy Robinson supporters
Tommy Robinson supporters

During the hearing, Andrew Caldecott QC said the Attorney General considers Robinson’s conduct during the Leeds Crown Court trial to be of “great concern”.

He told the court that in one part of the broadcast, Robinson said of a defendant: “Harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing.”

In another passage, Mr Caldecott said Robinson discussed how his video would be shared and “hopefully millions” of people would see it.

The barrister said: “The Attorney General is extremely concerned that conduct of the kind, particularly in those two passages seen in the context of the wider video, should in any way be considered as acceptable.”

He said it was “unfortunate” the history of the case was “prolonged” and accepted it had caused increased stress for Robinson.

Mr Caldecott argued the matters complained of involved important issues, however, and there were also “policy reasons” for the case to go ahead.

Earlier in the hearing, the judges allowed an application by Robinson’s lawyers for permission to submit fresh evidence, including medical evidence, as part of his case.

In the video, which was viewed online 250,000 times after being 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.

Mr Caldecott said that, in a witness statement, Robinson was “plainly contending that his behaviour towards the defendants was lawful”.

He told the court Robinson also said he searched online for guidelines on reporting restrictions before his broadcast and had undergone media training after the earlier contempt finding was made against him at Canterbury Crown Court.

Crowds gathered outside court ahead of the hearing in support of Robinson, who is standing for election as an MEP for the North West region in the European elections later this month, as well as a counter-demonstration organised by Stand Up To Racism.

After the court’s decision was announced, the crowd booed and chanted “shame on you”.

Speaking outside after the hearing, Tommy Robinson thanked his supporters and asked them to return on July 4, adding: “I will not apologise for stating facts.”