Tommy Robinson in contempt of court for ‘aggressively confronting’ defendants

Tommy Robinson has been found in contempt of court by High Court judges for “aggressively confronting and filming” defendants in a criminal trial and broadcasting the footage on social media.

Two senior judges found the former English Defence League (EDL) leader was in contempt when he filmed defendants accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not believe he was breaching any reporting restrictions and only referred to information that was already in the public domain.

But Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting at the Old Bailey with Mr Justice Warby, found him 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.

The judge said the content of the video “gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice in that case would be seriously impeded” and the confrontation of the defendants was a direct interference with the course of justice.

She added: “In our judgment, the respondent’s conduct in each of those respects amounted to a serious interference with the administration of justice.

“Detailed reasons for this decision will be handed down shortly. A hearing to decide the appropriate penalty will take place on a date to be fixed by the court.”

Tommy Robinson court case
Tommy Robinson greets supporters as he arrives at the Old Bailey (Yui Mok/PA)

A provisional date of July 11 was given, depending on the availability of a medical expert for Robinson.

The judge said the court will aim to give full reasons for the decision next week.

Robinson, wearing a blue jacket, blue shirt and jeans, showed little reaction as the judge announced the decision.

There was a brief flare of anger from Robinson supporters in the street outside the court as news of the result filtered through.

A small number marched purposefully towards the front of the court entrance, to barriers sectioning off police from the public.

The crowd, as one, then began chanting “shame on you” while pointing at the court, and beer cans were thrown at journalists.

Robinson was surrounded by journalists and security as he left the court.

A couple of his supporters then sprang from the crowd to film journalists, calling them “scum”.

Addressing the crowd, Robinson said the decision was wrong.

He repeated his claims the verdict will have a negative impact on press freedom.

He said: I’ve been convicted cos of who I am, not what I’ve done.”

Speaking after the ruling, the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC, who brought the contempt proceedings against Robinson, said: “Posting material online that breaches reporting restrictions or risks prejudicing legal proceedings is a very serious matter and this is reflected in the court’s decision today.

“I would urge everyone to think carefully about whether their social media posts could amount to contempt of court.”

Robinson broadcast the footage on May 25, 2018 while the jury in the second of a series of linked grooming trials was considering its verdict.

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.

The 36-year-old, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 13 months after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast.

The video lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times after being live-streamed on Facebook.

He served two months in jail before being freed after that 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.

Contempt of court carries a maximum sentence of two years.

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