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Far-right activist will serve 10 weeks after being found guilty of breaching reporting ban

Tommy Robinson pictured outside the Old Bailey, where his supporters later clashed with police. Photograph: Luke Dray/Getty Images

Tommy Robinson has been given a nine-month prison sentence – of which he will serve about 10 weeks – after he was found guilty of contempt of court at an earlier hearing.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, broadcast reports that encouraged “vigilante action” and “unlawful physical” aggression against defendants in a sexual exploitation trial, according to the judges who found him guilty last week.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Dame Victoria Sharp said of Robinson: “He has lied about a number of matters and sought to portray himself as the victim of unfairness and oppression.

“This does not increase his sentence, but it does mean that there can be no reduction for an admission of guilt.”

Robinson, 36, from Luton in Bedfordshire, had denied breaching a reporting ban by livestreaming footage of defendants arriving at court. He insisted he had only referred to information already in the public domain.

After deduction for time served, the sentence will amount to 19 weeks, of which he will serve half before being released.

The former leader of the far-right English Defence League flashed a V for victory sign to the public gallery upon hearing the sentence, and later winked as he slung a bag over his shoulder and was led away by prison officers.

He arrived outside the Old Bailey dressed in blue jeans and a black T-shirt bearing the words “convicted of journalism”, but was wearing a plain black one inside, where his barrister apologised for the defendant’s late arrival. Sharp, the lead judge, said: “Well, it’s not a very good start, is it?”

Police officers put on riot helmets and drew batons as bottles and cans were thrown when a crowd of Robinson supporters outside the court erupted with anger after the news from inside filtered through.

At least three people were arrested, City of London police said. The crowd later made its way to the Carriage Gates of the Houses of Parliament, blocking roads as they went.

Blocking the roads outside parliament they waved signs bearing slogans including “Tommy Robinson: political prisoner”, chanted support for the far-right activist and other slogans in favour of Brexit, as well as calling MPs “traitors”.

There were some briefly chaotic scenes as some protesters shouted abuse at police, and then crowded and jostled officers when one person was detained. Some protesters yelled “Paedophile protesters!” at police.

Several members of the crowd were holding cans of beer or cider, and one was overheard making racist comments.

The crowd, diminishing in numbers, moved around Parliament Square for a period before heading in the direction of Victoria.

Passing sentence at the Old Bailey alongside Mr Justice Warby, Sharp told Robinson they were in no doubt the custody threshold had been passed and the judges had taken account of information including the impact of prison on his health and family.

Aidan Eardley, the barrister for the attorney general, who had made the application for Robinson to be jailed, began earlier by outlining the sentencing options, adding that complicating factors included time already served, which amounted to 68 days in custody.

Robinson had been sentenced to 10 months when he was first jailed for the video he livestreamed from outside Leeds crown court, but appeal judges then ordered the case be reheard in full.

His barrister, Richard Furlong, said there had been no further incidences of contempt and asked the court to consider any actual harm caused by his client’s actions.

“Notwithstanding the seriousness of what has been found to be proven against him, in terms of actual harm to the trial of the criminal defendants in Leeds, there is no suggestion that the criminal defendants in Leeds did not have a fair trial, notwithstanding his conduct outside the court,” Furlong said.

Addressing his client’s state of mind, Furlong said there were a number of relevant categories, and “recklessness” was not as serious as others from the point of view of sentencing.

After sentencing, Furlong raised the possibility of an appeal against the court’s decision on contempt and was told he had 28 days to apply.

Speaking afterwards, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said: “Today’s sentencing of Yaxley-Lennon serves to illustrate how seriously the courts will take matters of contempt.”

Nick Lowles, the chief executive of the campaign group Hope Not Hate, said: “Stephen Lennon put at risk the trial of men accused of horrendous crimes with his livestreaming antics. He doesn’t care about the victims of grooming, he only cares about himself. He now faces yet another stint behind bars.”

Earlier this week, Robinson made an emotional appeal to the US president, Donald Trump, to grant him asylum, claiming he faced being killed in prison.

On Thursday, he was supported in court by the far-right commentator Katie Hopkins. Others in court included Ezra Levant, the founder of the Rebel Media, a Canadian far-right website.

Gerard Batten, the former Ukip leader who had taken on Robinson as an adviser before the party was wiped out in the European parliament elections in May, addressed the crowd outside from a stage.

Robinson meanwhile issued an appeal using the Telegram messaging app for supporters to protest outside prison on Saturday.

A full decision of the high court, released on Tuesday, explained the reasons for ruling against him. Sharp, the president of the Queen’s bench division, and Warby produced a three-page judgment setting out their findings last week.

“We are entirely satisfied that [Robinson] had actual knowledge that there was an order in force restricting reporting of the trial,” the judges concluded. “He said as much, repeatedly, on the video itself.”

Robinson was found to have committed contempt by breaching a reporting restriction, risked impeding the course of justice and interfered with the administration of justice by “aggressively and openly filming” the arrival of defendants at court.

Commenting on the impact of Robinson’s actions, the judges said: “The dangers of using the unmoderated platforms of social media, with the unparalleled speed and reach of such communications, are obvious.”

The Guardian

Ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has been found in contempt of court for his Facebook Live broadcast of defendants in a criminal trial.

He was found guilty of interfering with the trial of a sexual grooming gang at Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

High Court judges found his conduct “amounted to a serious interference with the administration of justice”.

The court ruled that Robinson committed contempt by breaking reporting restrictions.

The 36-year-old, from Luton, had 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.

One of the senior judges, Dame Victoria Sharp, said the court will consider what penalty to impose for the contempt – which carries a maximum penalty of two years – and give full reasons for the decision at a later date.

He was originally jailed for 13 months after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast but was released two months into his sentence after winning an appeal.

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.

BBC News

Tommy Robinson outside Leeds Crown Court. A screengrab from a video taken of Robinson as he was arrested by police.

Tommy Robinson outside Leeds Crown Court. A screengrab from a video taken of Robinson as he was arrested by police.

The founder of the English Defence League has been jailed over comments made on camera outside Leeds Crown Court which had the potential to de-rail a long running trial.

Tommy Robinson filmed himself during an hour-long rant outside the court building which he streamed on Facebook Live and was viewed a quarter of a million times

A judge who locked the right wing activist up for 13 months for contempt of court told him his actions may cause the sensitive case to be abandoned.

The court heard it could cost taxpayers “hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds” if a re-trial has to be held.

A strict order is currently in place temporarily banning publication or broadcasting details of the long-running case or anyone involved.

Media will be able to reveal details of the case later this year.

The Yorkshire Evening Post can now reveal details of Robinson’s sentencing hearing which took place last Friday.

Robinson, of Oakley Rise, Wilstead, Bedford, was arrested after naming defendants in the case, the charges they face and details of the allegations.

He also filmed defendants and confronted them as they were entering the building on Oxford Row.

The 35-year-old was held in the court cells before being taken into the court to face trial judge Geroffrey Marson, QC.

The judge explained why Robinson’s actions had been in contempt of court.

He said the order had been made to ensure the “integrity” of the case.

The judge said: “Nothing may occur which will prejudice the trial.”

He added: “He was expressing his views. Everyone understands the right to freedom of speech but there are responsibilities and obligations.”

The video footage was played to the judge in court before he dealt with Robinson.

He said: “He was approximate to where defendants go in and approximate to where jurors go in.

“He was making a video. He was referring to this case.

“He referred to the charges that the defendants faced and some charges which are not proceeded against in relation to some defendants.”

The court heard the footage had received 250,000 views and a story about Robinson’s arrest was the lead article on a national newspaper website.

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.”

Yorkshire Post

Tommy Robinson has been jailed for 13 months for breaking contempt of court laws.

His sentence can be revealed for the first time after The Independent and other media outlets fought a reporting restriction put on the case at Leeds Crown Court.

Robinson, whose real name was listed on court documents as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was arrested outside the court on Friday.

He admitted committing contempt of court by publishing information that could prejudice an ongoing trial.

The 35-year-old was already subject to a suspended sentence for committing contempt during a rape trial in Canterbury last year, and had been told that if he fell foul of the law again he would go to prison.

The Independent

Racist Paul Thornhill

Racist Paul Thornhill


A RACIST has been jailed for two outbursts in the city centre that left a British citizen so terrified he was afraid to stay in York.

Joe Culley, prosecuting, said the first victim was walking to work along Micklegate when Paul Thornhill, 49, for no reason called “foreign bastard” and “you don’t belong here, go back to your own country”.

Afterwards, the victim told police he was looking for work elsewhere in the country. “I no longer want to visit or work in York. He made me feel so ill,” he said.

A few days later, Thornhill was abusive to a security guard at York Jobcentre when he went for an interview in connection with his benefits.

District judge Adrian Lower told him the first victim was a British citizen who had served his country. “He is a man who works for a living, a man who was causing you no difficulty whatsoever. Your behaviour towards him was absolutely disgraceful. He was simply minding his business walking to work.”

The victim had come to the UK in 2003 after being in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The district judge jailed Thornhill for 18 weeks and ordered him to pay £100 compensation to each victim.

Thornhill, of Wensley House, Bouthwaite Drive, Acomb, insulted the judge in a comment to a dock officer as he was taken to the court cells at York Magistrates Court.

He had denied being racist towards the first victim and on the day of his trial had been behaved so badly the district judge had ordered dock staff to remove him from the courtroom, heard the trial in his absence, and had jailed him for 21 days for contempt of court before he returned for sentencing.

Thornhill admitted a separate charge of racial abuse of the security officer, who is black.

Two security staff were present in court throughout the sentencing hearing and three dock officers were summoned from the court cells to take him into custody.

For Thornhill, Kevin Blount said he had a very short temper and his mouth tended to run away with him. He had taken anger management courses in the past and was working hard on controlling himself. But he still had more work to do.

He suffered from depression that meant it was difficult to motivate himself. On the day of the trial, he had been in low spirits because the previous Sunday had been Father’s Day and he had not received a message from his daughter, whom he had fallen out with before Christmas.

York Press

A right wing activist who intended to photograph defendants during has narrowly avoided prison.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, of Bedfordshire, admitted contempt of court on May 8 and was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months by Judge Heather Norton.

Because of Robinson’s actions both the jury and defendants had to be hustled out of the building away from the normal front door.

Security staff told Robinson not to film within the precincts of the court and warned him he would be arrested.

‘He will be put in jeopardy if he goes to prison’

Robinson claimed he had only been working for an internet TV company for six weeks and hadn’t been taught media law .

He was looking to photograph or confront the defendants who included a juvenile which is against the Contempt of Court Act of 1925 – which makes it illegal to photograph witnesses, defendants or jurors within the court precincts.

Richard Kovaleski, defending, said Robinson had been given warnings that Al Shebab a Muslim extremist group is out to get him.

He said: “He is a marked man. This is not fanciful. He will be put in jeopardy if he goes to prison. Today could be a life changing event.”

‘I take a dim view of your actions. If you commit further offences this sentence will be activated’

Judge Norton said although Robinson only filmed himself in the court building his intention was clear.

She said: “Your intention beyond any doubt was to film the defendants but you were not able to do so.”

There are notices all over the court building prohibiting filming.

Judge Norton said: “This was a deliberate action on your part.

“Your intention was to seek out the defendants. It is abundantly clear you were on a mission to film the defendants.This is not about free speech or freedom of the press, legitimate journalism or political correctness.

“This is about justice. It is about being innocent until proven guilty.

“I find clear evidence of contempt. I take a dim view of your actions. If you commit further offences this sentence will be activated.”

She said any further contempt and Robinson would be sent to jail for three months on top of any further sentences.

Kent Live

A far-right activist who photographed a suspected rioter in a court corridor has been jailed for three weeks.

Amanda Smith, 52, snapped the defendant as he appeared at Canterbury Crown Court accused of violent disorder at the Dover riots.

Her lawyer, Kerry Waitt, attempted to claim Smith was a court reporter, having attended many of the riot hearings.

But Judge Adele Williams told Mr Waitt: “I don’t think you can compare this defendant and her activities to our very well-respected court reporter from the Kentish Gazette.”

Smith, of Shipman Avenue, Canterbury, was spotted by security staff taking the picture as others posed for it outside Court 6.

She has now been jailed for 21 days after admitting being in contempt of court.

The mum of two was told by the judge: “Your conduct was wholly unacceptable – especially taking a picture of someone waiting to be dealt with for violent disorder.”

It has been an offence for 91 years to take photographs in and around courts in England and Wales and is regarded as a common law contempt, attracting jail sentences.

Mr Waitt said Smith was “not present at what has now become known as the Dover Riots but she has an association with the South-East Alliance”, regarded as a far-right group.

He added: “This is a group which shares views on politics and immigration and other topical matters. They communicate with each other in chatrooms.

“And as she lives near to the court and it being school holidays she was encouraged by others and agreed to come to the court to report to families of those who were in court.”

He told Canterbury Crown Court that Smith worked at a “local education establishment” and now “bitterly regrets allowing herself to become involved” in taking the photograph.

“She was invited to take a photograph and didn’t apply her mind to what she was doing,” he said.

“She is now contrite and has learned her lesson.”

Judge Williams said security staff were aware that Smith had attended many of the hearings involving those alleged to have taken part in the riots in Dover in January.

Kent Online