Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Laws on contempt of court under spotlight as Tommy Robinson freed following appeal

Tommy Robinson fans celebrate the activist's release from prison. Credit: PA
  • By ITV News Correspondent Angus Walker

Tommy Robinson has been freed for now, with his supporters saying the partial success of his appeal proves his prosecution was flawed and vindicates their view that the establishment has been trying to silence him.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been a spokesman for right-wing activists in the UK for 15 years.

He's said in the past that he founded the English Defence League after seeing an extremist Muslim group burn poppies as troops paraded through Luton town centre.

He has been an effective communicator, rallying crowds and pushing his cause, arguing that he is not a racist or an Islamophobe, but simply wanting to warn and highlight issues which, he would say, the liberal elite refuse to admit or acknowledge - like Muslim grooming gangs or PC attitudes.

His prolific use of social media led to his latest conviction for contempt of court in May, where he'd been live-streaming outside Leeds Crown Court talking about a trial.

The case was, and still is, covered by stiff reporting restrictions and, as a result, his broadcast on Facebook was deemed to be prejudicial to the ongoing legal proceedings.

He was arrested and five hours later sentenced to 13 months in jail. Three months of that term was a suspended sentence for a similar offence in Canterbury last year.

Robinson was jailed for contempt of court. Credit: PA

On Wednesday, his lawyers successfully argued that the judge had been too hasty and had not followed correct procedure in a contempt case.

The "process was flawed", according to the appeal court judge.

In many ways the court, the judge involved in Leeds and the laws around contempt have been on trial.

For legal anoraks this has been an interesting test of contempt law in the age of social media and mobile phones.

Senior judiciary have been keen to make people aware of the severe consequences if you take pictures or video in or close to a court or breach orders designed to protect the fairness of a trial and the jury from outside influence.

Robinson will now be released from prison and is due attend a re-hearing at the Old Bailey.

For his supporters, he's a martyr.

For opponents, he's a man whose attempts to spread division and hate have once again seen him fall foul of the law.