Grooming trials ‘put at risk’ by Tommy Robinson
The Huddersfield grooming trials were allegedly put at risk by the antics of English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson, who flouted reporting restrictions designed to ensure the proceedings were fair.
Robinson, a convicted fraudster who has also served time for assault and drugs offences, claimed the activities of the gang were being covered up because the offenders were of Asian origin.
In reality, reporting of the case was only being postponed for well-established legal reasons.
The restriction was put in place because the defendants were being dealt with in separate trials.
In such cases, reporting is sometimes postponed until the final case so jurors cannot be prejudiced by reading accounts of previous trials.
Robinson claimed instead that the cases were being covered up because the men were Muslims in video footage which also showed him approaching defendants in the second trial as they approached Leeds Crown Court.
The video was viewed on social media 250,000 times within hours.
Robinson was given a 13-month jail term by Judge Geoffrey Marson QC in May, but was released from HMP Onley in Rugby on August 1 after successfully challenging the contempt of court ruling.
However, Robinson was warned by Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, who took the decision to order his release with Mr Justice Turner and Mr Justice McGowan, that he could be sent back to jail if a ruling of contempt of court is made at a fresh hearing, due to take place at the Old Bailey on October 23.
Robinson, identified by his real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon in court documents, later said: “The law’s supposed to be blind, but it’s not supposed to be deaf and dumb. I’m being specifically targeted for who I am.
“I’m on trial for speaking into a microphone.”
But the former British National Party supporter from Luton, whose case was taken up by the so-called alt-right in the US when he was jailed, was aware of the potential consequences of his actions at Leeds Crown Court.
He had been given a suspended prison sentence for contempt of court in 2017 after trying to film three Asian men and a teenager who were on trial at Canterbury Crown Court accused of gang-raping a teenage girl.
That trial was also subject to temporary reporting restrictions, which were also later lifted and the men involved were given 14-year jail sentences.
Giving Robinson the suspended sentence for contempt in that case, the judge said her decision on whether to jail him had been on a “knife-edge”.
Jailing him after the Leeds video, Judge Marson told him his actions could have caused the trial to be re-run, costing “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds”.
His lawyer Matthew Harding claimed Robinson had “deep regret” for what he had done in Leeds and had been “mindful, having spoken to others and taken advice, not to say things that he thought would actually prejudice these proceedings”.
But Judge Marson said: “Not only was it a very long video, but I regard it as a serious aggravating feature that he was encouraging others to share it and it had been shared widely. That is the nature of the contempt.”
The judge added: “Everyone understands the right to freedom of speech but there are responsibilities and obligations.”