Tommy Robinson freed on bail after winning contempt challenge

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson has been freed on bail by leading judges after winning his challenge against a contempt of court finding.

The right-wing campaigner refused to answer questions from journalists as he was led by supporters from HMP Onley in Rugby but told members of the media "you've lost the faith of the British public".

Three judges in London quashed a finding made against Robinson at Leeds Crown Court in May where he was sentenced to 13 months in jail.

The contempt matter will be heard again at court at a future date.

Tommy Robinson refused to answer questions from journalists as he was flanked by supporters upon his release from prison. Credit: PA

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said he was allowing Robinson's appeal "in respect of the committal for contempt at Leeds Crown Court" - a decision greeted by cheers from his supporters sat in the gallery.

He added: "The appellant is granted bail and the matter of contempt at Leeds Crown Court is remitted to be heard again."

Robinson, who was not present at the ruling, told one reporter upon being freed that he has "a lot to say, but nothing to you. To the British public".

The judges had been urged to overturn two contempt of court findings against Robinson, 35, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon – made at Leeds Crown Court and at Canterbury Crown Court.

At a hearing in July, his QC Jeremy Dein argued that procedural "deficiencies" had given rise to "prejudice".

Mr Dein also submitted that the sentence was "manifestly excessive" and that "insufficient" regard had been given to personal mitigation.

Some Robinson protesters wore tape over their mouths. Credit: PA

A Facebook page affiliated with Robinson posted that the campaigner was "over the moon" with the outcome.

The post read: "They [Robinson's family] had a family holiday booked and paid for this Friday which he can now go on and spend some much-needed time with his wife and children.

"He asked us to pass on his heartfelt thanks to every single one of you who have been campaigning for his release and supporting him.

"Today the Royal Courts of Justice validated what everyone of you has been fighting for - the fact that the conviction back in Leeds was in fact illegal!"

Carson Kaye, solicitors representing the 35-year-old, described the matter as a "very complex area of law".

A statement from the firm read: "What makes the British system so unique is the ability to set aside personal feelings and deal with the law and each case on its merits."

  • 'Euphoric cheers'

Robinson was not present at the hearing. Credit: PA

ITV News Specialist Producer Becky Kelly, who was present at court, said the hearing lasted around 10 minutes.

"As the ruling was given, Robinson's supporters outside court wearing 'free Tommy' t-shirts, caps and holding photos, let out euphoric cheers," she said.

"Shouting 'He's coming home! He's coming home!', those on team Tommy, men, women and some children, danced in the street - akin to scenes at a football game.

"The scene was familiar, with team Tommy behind one set of police barriers and those against behind another wall of metal.

"Those anti-racism campaigners met and challenged those standing with the former EDL leader.

"While today was seen as a victory by some, the counter protesters served as a reminder that there are many who do not share the views extolled by Robinson and the right wing."

Robinson was jailed in May after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media.

The footage, lasting around an hour, was watched 250,000 times within hours of being posted on Facebook.

The far-right activist was given 10 months for contempt of court, which he admitted, and a further three months for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

Robinson was detained outside court in Leeds after using social media to broadcast details of a trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

It was the second time Robinson had breached court orders, having narrowly avoided jail in May last year over footage he filmed during the trial of four men who were later convicted of gang-raping a teenage girl.

Anti-Robinson protesters outside the High Court during the latest hearing. Credit: PA

The judge on that occasion gave him a three-month suspended sentence and told him his punishment was not about "freedom of speech or freedom of the press" but about "justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly".

Mr Dein argued during the recent appeal proceedings that the findings of contempt of court on each occasion should be quashed as a "conglomeration of procedural deficiencies" had given rise to prejudice.

The QC said the proceedings in Leeds had been "unnecessarily and unjustifiably rushed".

He told the judges: "We maintain it is of particular importance that right from the outset the appellant, albeit in a very stressful and difficult situation, offered to have the live stream taken down and contact people who could do so."

There had been no intention to disrupt the trial or to breach any order, Mr Dein said.

The Court of Appeal judges announced that they were dismissing Robinson’s appeal in respect of the earlier contempt finding at Canterbury Crown Court.