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Tommy Robinson given nine-month jail sentence for contempt of court

Robinson, 36, was found guilty of breaching reporting ban by livestreaming footage of defendants in ongoing trial Tommy Robinson has been given a nine-month jail sentence – of which he will serve around 10 weeks - after he was found guilty of contempt of court at an earlier hearing.The 36-year-old, 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 earlier this month. Continue reading...

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

The 36-year-old, 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 earlier this month.

Passing sentence today, 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, 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 on hearing the sentence, and later winked as he slung a bag over his shoulder and was led away by prison officers.

Born Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon in 1982, Luton-based Tommy Robinson was co-founder and leader of the English Defence League between 2009 and 2013. 

The EDL were described as the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s, staging a series of provocative marches in areas of the country with significant Muslim populations. Robinson had also been a member of the BNP.

In 2013 Robinson left the EDL after a high profile BBC documentary "When Tommy Met Mo", which followed Robinson's relationship with Mo Ansar after the pair met while filming a debate about Islam on BBC One's The Big Questions.

However, by October 2015 Robinson was once again campaigning against Islam, addressing a Pegida rally. He subsequently set up a British section of Pegida, whose name comes from the initials of the German phrase for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West"

Robinson was convicted of contempt of court in May 2017 for filming inside Canterbury Crown Court and given a suspended sentence. The sentence was put into effect after Robinson was arrested for live streaming outside Leeds Crown Court during the course of another trial. 

Robinson's case has attracted high profile support from far-right figures including Steve Bannon and Geert Wilders. Donald Trump Jr has retweeted Robinson's supporters campaigning for his release - Robinson himself was permanently banned from Twitter in March 2018. His supporters have also staged "Free Tommy" rallies, where there have been clashes with the police.

In July 2019 he was given a nine-month jail sentence after he was found guilty of contempt of court for live streaming a video that encouraged 'vigilante action' and 'unlawful physical' aggression against defendants in a sexual exploitation trial.

Robinson has previously been convicted for "using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour" during a fight between Luton and Newport County football fans. He was imprisoned for 10 months for using somebody else's passport to enter the United States, and for mortgage fraud.

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 crowds of Robinson supporters outside the Old bailey erupted with anger as the news from inside filtered through.

Passing sentence alongside Mr Justice Warby, Sharp told Robinson they were in no doubt that the custody threshold had been passed and that the judges had taken account of information including the impact of prison on his health and on his 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 received 10 months when he was first jailed for the video he livestreamed from outside Leeds crown court but appeal judges then ordered that the case be reheard in full.

Robinson’s 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.

He said: “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.”

Addressing his client’s state of mind, Furlong said there were a number of categories which were relevant, 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 from today to apply.

Speaking afterwards, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox QC, 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 had 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 Canadian far-right website the Rebel Media. Gerard Batten, the former Ukip leader who had taken on Robinson as adviser before the party was wiped out in the recent European parliament elections, addressed the crowds outside from a stage.

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

A full decision of the high court, released on Tuesday, explained its 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.”

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