Ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson is freed on bail after top judges rule his 13-month sentence for contempt was 'muddled and rushed' because he was jailed just five hours after his arrest

Former EDL leader Tommy Robinson is appealing against his 13-month jail term He was locked up in May after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial Robinson broadcast the footage on Facebook and it was watched 250,000 times Judges have freed him on bail and say his contempt case should be heard again

01 August 2018 - 14:22

Tommy Robinson was freed on bail today after judges ruled it was 'unfair' the former EDL leader was given 13 months in prison during a 'muddled' court case rushed through just five hours after his arrest.

The far right activist, 35, has been in prison for two months after filming defendants involved in a criminal trial at Leeds Crown Court in May and broadcasting the footage to 250,000 people using Facebook Live.

The far-right activist appealed against his 13-month jail term for contempt of court claiming the punishment was 'excessive' and the hearing was 'rushed'. 

Today the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction saying the decision to jail him within five hours of his arrest 'gave rise to unfairness'.

A panel of three senior judges also criticised Mr Justice Marson, the judge who sent him to prison, saying he gave 'no clarity' about what parts Facebook Live video were problematic and ignored that it was deleted shortly after his arrest.

The judge also denied Robinson the chance to defend himself properly by not adjourning the case to another day, the ruling said.

Robinson's successful appeal caused supporters to cry with joy and cheer wildly before chanting 'Tommy's coming home' to the tune of England football anthem Three Lions.

Anti-racism supporters had also gathered on the Royal Courts of Justice and were shouting chants such as 'Nazi scum, off our streets' and 'refugees are welcome here' as the judgment came in. 

Supporters clung to one another and jumped for joy when news of Robinson's release emerged 


This woman in a mobility scooter sobbed with joy when she heard Robinson's appeal had been successful 

This woman in a mobility scooter sobbed with joy when she heard Robinson's appeal had been successful 


A man kisses his poster of Tommy Robinson outside the Court of Appeal today after hearing the news

A man kisses his poster of Tommy Robinson outside the Court of Appeal today after hearing the news

Announcing the decision on Wednesday, Lord Burnett said the court was allowing his appeal 'in respect of the committal for contempt at Leeds Crown Court'.

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

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.

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's QC had argued at a hearing in July that the findings of contempt should be quashed as procedural errors had led to prejudice.

Lord Burnett, giving reasons for the Court of Appeal's decision relating to

the Leeds Crown Court allegation, said that once Robinson 'had removed the video from Facebook there was no longer sufficient urgency to justify immediate proceedings'.

The court agreed that the judge at Leeds should not have commenced contempt proceedings that day.

Lord Burnett said that 'no particulars of the contempt were formulated or

put to the appellant', and there was 'a muddle over the nature of the contempt being considered'.

He added: 'Where a custodial term of considerable length is being imposed,

it should not usually occur so quickly after the conduct which is complained of; a sentence of committal to immediate custody had been pronounced within five hours of the conduct taking place.'

The decision send him to prison has sparked several protests all over the country and the campaign to get him freed has garnered support abroad, especially in the United States. 


An anti-racism group held a counter-demonstration on the steps of the court and called Robinson a fascist

An anti-racism group held a counter-demonstration on the steps of the court and called Robinson a fascist


Members of Stand Up To Racism were shouting chants including 'Nazi scum, off our streets' and 'refugees are welcome here'

Members of Stand Up To Racism were shouting chants including 'Nazi scum, off our streets' and 'refugees are welcome here'

About 25 Robinson supporters had gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice by the time the ruling was made.

They cheered when news of the decision filtered through.

A similar number of people staged a 'Stand Up To Racism' protest. The two groups were separated by a line of police and exchanged chants.

Supporter David Scott said outside court: 'Brilliant result. I think it's the best we can hope for at the moment.

'Hopefully it will start a backlash against what's gone wrong with this country.'

Supporter Vince Cawthron said outside court after the ruling: 'I am quietly pleased. He could be back with his family in hours.'

Supporters in the packed courtroom broke into a round of applause as Lord Burnett announced the decision.

The judge ordered that there should be 'silence' as he continued to read a summary of the reasons for Wednesday's ruling.

Robinson's 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, 35, sent a legal team to the Court of Appeal in London to argue his sentence should be cut.

But leading judges reserved their decision until today before giving him a partiual victory.

Robinson, 35, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, watched via video link from prison.

During the last hearing, his QC Jeremy Dein urged Lord Burnett and two other judges to overturn contempt of court findings, submitting that procedural 'deficiencies' had given rise to 'prejudice'.

Mr Dein, when asking the judges to reduce the jail sentence, argued that it was 'manifestly excessive', and said that 'insufficient weight' had been given to personal mitigation.


Tommy's supporters have gathered outside the High Court today ahead of the decision

Tommy's supporters have gathered outside the High Court today ahead of the decision


Supporters gathered at the Court of Appeal two weeks ago only to be told Robinson would have to wait until today for a decision

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

Why was Tommy Robinson jailed for 13 months for contempt of court over Facebook Live video? 

Robinson was live outside Leeds Crown Court while jurors were in the process of considering verdicts in a trial

Robinson was live outside Leeds Crown Court while jurors were in the process of considering verdicts in a trial

The judge who jailed Tommy Robinson told him his Facebook Live could have collapsed a six-week trial if the jurors saw it.

Mr Justice Marson QC said that Robinson had failed in his 'responsibility to exercise freedom of speech within the law'. 

Within five hours of his arrest Robinson was jailed for 13 months after pleading guilty to contempt in relation to an ongoing trial.

He also admitted breaching the terms of a suspended sentence he was handed in Canterbury last May for a similar offence. 

Mr Justice Marson QC said: 'No one could possibly conclude that it would be anything other than highly prejudicial to the defendants in the trial. I respect everyone's right to free speech. That's one of the most important rights that we have.

'With those rights come responsibilities. The responsibility to exercise that freedom of speech within the law. I am not sure you appreciate the potential consequence of what you have done.

'If the jurors in my present trial get to know of this video I will no doubt be faced with an application to discharge the jury. If I have to do that it will mean a re-trial, costing hundreds and hundreds and thousands of pounds.'

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.

Robinson was arrested outside Leeds Crown Court in May after using social media to broadcast details of a trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

Jailing him, Judge Geoffrey Marson told Robinson his actions could cause the trial to be re-run, costing 'hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds'.

The judge said it was a 'serious aggravating feature' that he was encouraging others to share it and it had been shared widely.

He added: 'Everyone understands the right to freedom of speech but there are responsibilities and obligations.

'I am not sure you appreciate the potential consequence of what you have done.

'People have to understand that if they breach court orders there will be very real consequences.'

It was the second time Robinson had breached court orders, having narrowly avoided jail in May 2017 over footage he filmed during the trial of four men who were later convicted of gang-raping a teenage girl.

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'.

During Robinson's sentencing hearing, his barrister Matthew Harding said the activist had 'deep regret' for what he had done and 'did not try to cause difficulties for the court process'. 

Why Tommy Robinson was found in contempt of court - and what the  law means

Why was Tommy Robinson jailed? 

Tommy Robinson was jailed for 13 months after being held in contempt of court for a Facebook Live video he filmed outside a court in Leeds.

Robinson was earlier convicted of contempt of court in May 2017 for broadcasting at a rape trial and given a three-month suspended sentence.

The judge in that case told him that he would be imprisoned if he committed 'a further contempt of court by similar actions.' 

Sentencing him to three months jail, suspended for 18 months, Judge Norton last year said: 'There are notices all over the court building making it clear that filming or taking photographs is an offence and may be a contempt of court.'

But choosing not to jail Robinson last May, Judge Norton told him it was not about 'freedom of speech or freedom of the press' but his sentence was about 'justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly, and ensuring that a jury is not in any way inhibited in carrying out its important function.'

However, when Robinson streamed the Facebook Live, he was arrested and pleaded guilty to contempt of court and breach of a suspended sentence.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: 'Not only was it a very long video, but I regard it as a serious aggravating feature that he was encouraging others to share it and it had been shared widely.

'That is the nature of the contempt.

'He referred to the charges that the defendants faced and some charges which are not proceeded against in relation to some defendants.' 

What is contempt of court?  

The law that Robinson was charged under falls under the Contempt of Court Act of 1981.

The law is described as interfering with the administration of justice, in order to give those facing charges a fair trial and eliminate the possibility of a prejudiced jury. 

The maximum penalty of contempt of court is up to two years in jail. 

The law mostly applies to the media, to restrict publications and broadcasters from reporting anything about the case. 

However, because Robinson streamed outside the court to thousands of followers he was charged with contempt of court. 

The danger of prejudicing a jury can lead to a collapse of a trial, meaning that the process might have to start over again, and at a great expense. 

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC told Robinson in his most recent sentencing that his actions may cause the retrial of a long-running trial, costing taxpayers 'hundreds of thousands of pounds'.   


Source: daily mail
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