Tommy Robinson will face new contempt of court proceedings over claims he filmed people in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media, High Court judges have ruled today.
The former English Defence League leader, 36, was jailed for 13 months in May last year over alleged filming during one of a series of trials of a Huddersfield grooming gang.
But his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in August and he was freed from prison having served two months of his sentence. Earlier this month however Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC said he should face fresh proceedings.
And at a first hearing today it was decided that Robinson will go on trial once again with Andrew Caldecott QC, for the Attorney General claiming his conduct during the 2018 Leeds Crown Court trial was of ‘great concern’.
The Attorney General contended that Robinson ‘published the video knowing that there was some sort of reporting restriction in place.’ And that publication of the video ‘gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded’.
The QC said in his written argument that it was understood Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, will contend that he ‘could not obtain any specific details of the reporting restriction order’.
But Mr Caldecott said the Attorney General ‘does not accept this version of events’.
He told the court that in one part of the broadcast, Robinson said of a defendant: ‘Harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing.’
In another passage, Mr Caldecott said Robinson discussed how his video would be shared and ‘hopefully millions’ of people would see it.
The barrister said: ‘The Attorney General is extremely concerned that conduct of the kind, particularly in those two passages seen in the context of the wider video, should in any way be considered as acceptable.’
Mr Caldecott said that, in a witness statement, Robinson was ‘plainly contending that his behaviour towards the defendants was lawful’.
He also noted it was ‘unfortunate’ that the history of the case was ‘prolonged’ and accepted it had caused increased stress for Robinson.
However, he said the matters complained of involved important issues and there were also ‘policy reasons’ for the case to go ahead.
After the court’s decision was announced, the crowd booed and chanted ‘shame on you’.
Lady Justice Sharp said permission would be given for fresh proceedings to go ahead on all grounds.
She said reasons for the decision would be given at a later date.
Robinson earlier today made a brief speech to his supporters outside the Old Bailey, saying the case against him was ‘politically motivated’.
Hundreds had gathered outside the court ahead of the first hearing in the new case, which took place before two High Court judges.
There were believed to be around 400 supporters of Robinson, and also a counter- demonstration nearby organised by the Stand Up To Racism group.
Arguing in court today, lawyers for Robinson said he should not face fresh contempt of court proceedings due to his having already spent two ‘exceptionally arduous’ months in prison over the matter.
Lawyers representing Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC outlined their case on the bringing of fresh proceedings during the hearing.
Mr Caldecott said the court should give ‘due weight’ to the Attorney General’s assessment that fresh proceedings are in the public interest, but that it is ‘not conclusive’.
In written submissions to the court, Mr Caldecott said that in correspondence, Robinson’s solicitors ‘have advanced various reasons why contempt proceedings should not be pursued’.
These include the ‘exceptionally arduous’ conditions of imprisonment he has already endured, a ‘medical matter’, delay, and ‘cost to the public purse’.
Robinson from Luton, could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
He sat behind his lawyers throughout the hearing in court two, wearing a blue shirt and light-grey jacket – having changed out of a white ‘Vote Tommy’ T-shirt he was seen wearing when entering the building.
Today groups of Tommy Robinson supporters were occasionally heard breaking into chants of ‘Tommy Robinson is going to be our MEP’ and ‘Oh Tommy Tommy, Tommy Tommy Tommy Tommy Robinson’.
The pro- and anti-Robinson groups were also heard trading chants, with shouts of ‘say it loud, say it clear – refugees are welcome here’, being drowned out by those singing Tommy Robinson’s name.
Robinson was jailed for 13 months in May last year after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial at Leeds Crown Court and broadcast the footage on social media.
The footage, lasting around an hour and a half, was watched 250,000 times within hours of being posted on Facebook.
It was filmed during one of a series of trials of a Huddersfield grooming gang, which was covered by strict reporting restrictions banning publication of any details until the end of the final one in September last year.
But a contempt finding made against Robinson was quashed by the Court of Appeal in August and he was freed from prison after serving two months of his sentence.
Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard QC was due to hear the case at the Old Bailey, but referred the case to the Attorney General in October after receiving a statement from Robinson.
Robinson, who is standing for election as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the North West Region in the European elections later this month, has previously vowed to contest the Attorney General’s decision.
Crowds of supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice and the Old Bailey for the previous hearings and Robinson made an address at the October hearing.
A statement from the Attorney General’s office on March 7 said Mr Cox had reached his decision based on an assessment of the evidence and whether it was in the ‘wider public interest’.
Mr Cox said: ‘After carefully considering the details of this case, I have concluded there are strong grounds to bring fresh contempt of court proceedings against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).
‘As proceedings are now under way, it would not be appropriate to comment further and I remind everyone that it is an offence to comment on live court cases.’
His appearance in London today comes just weeks after he had two milkshakes thrown over him one day after the other while on the European election campaign trail.