Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Tommy Robinson sentenced to nine months in jail for contempt of court

Former English Defence League leader is likely to serve only 10 weeks

British far-right activist and founder of English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, arrives at the Old Bailey court. Getty
British far-right activist and founder of English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, arrives at the Old Bailey court. Getty

British far-right activist Tommy Robinson has been sentenced to nine months in jail for contempt of court.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found to be in contempt of court last Friday after he filmed defendants accused of sexual exploitation during a trial last year and posted the footage on social media, breaching reporting restrictions on the case.

The sentence includes six months for filming outside Leeds Crown Court and three months for an earlier incident outside another court.

Robinson, who has a history of criminal convictions, violence and racism, sought to cast the case as an attack on freedom of speech and has won support from extremists across the world.

Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders urged Robinson's supporters to "raise your voice" if he was jailed amid concerns that Robinson would use the case to raise his profile and secure funding. News of his jail term sparked disturbances outside court and his supporters threw bottles at police.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of anti-extremism campaigning group Hope Not Hate, said Robinson "put at risk the trial of men accused of horrendous crimes with his live-streaming antics.

"He doesn't care about the victims of grooming; he only cares about himself. He now faces yet another stint behind bars.

“So far this year, he's been humiliated at the ballot box, kicked off social media platforms for hate speech, jailed for contempt, and it's only July.”

The sentence was reduced to 19 weeks after deducting time served in prison last year for one of the offences. He will be released on licence after 10 weeks in jail.

Robinson, 36, the co-founder of the far-right English Defence League, staged violent demonstrations against Islam in the past.

He described British Muslims as enemy combatants and called for the repatriation of all Muslim refugees who moved to the EU.

Robinson’s extremism resulted in him being removed from social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A paper published this week said such actions by social media companies was an effective way of limiting their influence.

The Global Research Network on Terrorism and Technology found that many far-right groups had migrated to smaller platforms, but the process led to a collapse in their follower numbers. However, the report said that their messaging had been become more extreme after moving from mainstream platforms.

He was earlier jailed for making the video recordings outside a courthouse in Leeds, northern England, which revealed the identities of defendants accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls while jurors were still considering their verdicts.

He successfully appealed against the jailing and was released. The Court of Appeal, however, ordered a rehearing and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the government's chief legal adviser, decided to start contempt proceedings against him.

Robinson was ten minutes' late for the sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Thursday and was admonished by Judge Dame Victoria Sharp.

"It's not a very good start," she told him.

Robinson arrived to court wearing a black T-shirt bearing the slogan “convicted of journalism” on the front. However, once he stepped into the courtroom itself, the T-shirt was replaced with a plain black one.

Crowds of supporters gathered outside, chanting “we want Tommy out” and throwing bottles at police officers.

Updated: July 14, 2019 02:34 PM