by Zoe Drewett, The Metro:
Tommy Robinson has been jailed for nine months for filming defendants in a grooming gang trial and live streaming the footage to Facebook. Robinson, 36, was found to have committed contempt of court on Friday after a two-day hearing at the Old Bailey.
Sentencing him, judge Dame Victoria Sharp said: ‘We are in no doubt that the custody threshold is passed in this case.’
The nine month jail sentence includes six months for filming outside Leeds Crown Court last year and three months for an incident at Canterbury Crown Court the year before. After deduction for time served in prison last year for the same offence, the sentence in practice amounts to 19 weeks – and he will be released on licence after 10.
Speaking after the sentencing, the Attorney General said: ‘Today’s sentencing of Yaxley-Lennon serves to illustrate how seriously the courts will take matters of contempt. ‘Posting material online that breaches reporting restrictions or risks prejudicing legal proceedings has consequences, and I would urge everyone to think carefully about whether their social media posts could amount to contempt of court.’
At the start of the hearing, his barrister Richard Furlong apologised for his client’s late arrival, blaming ‘a number of people outside who are here to support him’. Dame Victoria replied: ‘Well, it’s not a very good start, is it?’
The former English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found in contempt in three respects when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018. He has 11 previous convictions for violence, public order, fraud and disobedience of court orders.
After he was found in contempt, Robinson released a video of himself begging President Donald Trump to grant him ‘political asylum’ in the US, claiming he would be killed if he was put in prison in Britain. He said: ‘I beg Donald Trump, I beg the American government, to look at my case. ‘I feel like I’m two days away from being sentenced to death in the UK.’ His appeal continued: ‘I need evacuation from this country because dark forces are at work.’
Robinson arrived at court with an overnight bag and a t-shirt with the words ‘convicted of journalism’ (Picture: Sky News) Robinson was late to his hearing this morning due to crowds of supporters (Picture: PA) Far-right former radio host Katie Hopkins made sure to give Robinson a hug before he entered the court (Picture: SWNS) On Tuesday, Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby said Robinson had encouraged ‘vigilante action’ in the video he streamed from outside Leeds Crown Court, which lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times on the morning of the broadcast.
Dame Victoria said the words he used in the video would have been understood by viewers as ‘an incitement’ to harass the defendants and ‘gave rise to a real risk the course of justice would be seriously impeded’. 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 the judges found him in contempt because he had breached the reporting restriction imposed, live-streamed the video from outside the public entrance to the court and had been ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ some of the defendants.