Tuesday 21 May 2019

Hundreds of supporters gather as Tommy Robinson to face trial over contempt charge

Tommy Robinson speaks to supporters and media outside the Old Bailey in the City of London
Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Tommy Robinson speaks to supporters and media outside the Old Bailey in the City of London Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Tommy Robinson speaks to supporters and media outside the Old Bailey Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

At least 200 supporters have begun gathering outside the Old Bailey in London ahead of the latest stage of a case against Tommy Robinson over an allegation he committed contempt of court.

The former English Defence League (EDL) leader, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is expected to arrive at the Old Bailey at around 1pm.

A counter demonstration of around one hundred people, organised by the Stand Up To Racism group, has gathered a short distance away from Robinson's supporters.

The group of Tommy Robinson supporters outside court has grown to around 400, with the crowd occasionally breaking into chants of "Tommy Robinson is going to be our MEP" and "Oh Tommy Tommy, Tommy Tommy Tommy Tommy Robinson".

Tommy Robinson speaks to supporters and media outside the Old Bailey Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Tommy Robinson speaks to supporters and media outside the Old Bailey Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The pro- and anti-Robinson groups have begun 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.

Tommy Robinson has arrived at the Old Bailey ahead of his latest contempt hearing.

He made a brief speech to several hundred supporters outside the court, saying the case against him was "politically motivated".

Speaking outside the Old Bailey, leading criminal defence barrister Rajiv Menon QC called City of London Police's decision to allow a demonstration outside the building "astonishing".

Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London
Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Mr Menon - who was at the Central Criminal Court on a separate case - told the Press Association: "I'm just shocked that they are allowed to be here. I'm not aware of any other political group that have been allowed to block the road and have a protest in front of the Old Bailey like this."

He said: "They are allowed to protest - this is not about the right to protest - but to give them this sort of platform - nobody else gets that platform."

Mr Menon added: "It's just outrageous - what are City of London Police doing?"

Robinson, seen earlier entering the Old Bailey wearing a white "Vote Tommy" t-shirt, has now entered courtroom two wearing a blue shirt with a light grey jacket.

Richard Furlong QC, representing Robinson, is asking the court for permission to submit fresh evidence in the case.

He says the evidence was not admitted within the court's time limit as Robinson had a "number of other commitments, principally in the Czech Republic," at the time of the deadline.

Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London
Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Supporters of Tommy Robinson gather outside the Old Bailey in London Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Andrew Caldecott QC, for the Attorney General, says there are "no cogent reasons" for the delay.

Lady Justice Sharp, sitting with Mr Justice Warby, has granted the application by Robinson's lawyers for permission to submit fresh evidence, including medical evidence, out of time.

Mr Caldecott will tell the court that the Attorney General has considered representations made on behalf of Robinson but "remains of the view that it is strongly in the public interest" that the application against him should proceed.

Mr Caldecott has begun outlining the law relating to the bringing of contempt of court proceedings.

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".

The case against Robinson is being pursued on the basis he allegedly committed contempt by breaching a reporting restriction, breaching the rules covering court reporting and common law contempt.

Mr Caldecott told the court it has to be satisfied that there is a "reasonably arguable" case on each of the grounds.

He said the court may decide to refuse permission for fresh proceedings to go ahead if it is satisfied there was "serious unfairness" to Robinson.

In written submissions to the court, Mr Caldecott says 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".

Several hundred Tommy Robinson supporters waited outside the Old Bailey as the hearing progressed inside, periodically chanting "we want Tommy out".

Mr Caldecott explained that the application arose from Robinson's "live streaming" of a video from outside Leeds Crown Court as some of the defendants in a trial entered the court building, "and his conduct towards some of those defendants".

The Attorney General contended that Robinson "published the video knowing that there was some sort of reporting restriction in place and recklessly, recognising that the terms of the order might well prohibit the reporting he was engaged in, but unreasonably taking that risk".

The QC said in his written argument that it was understood Robinson will contend that he "could not obtain any specific details of the reporting restriction order".

In the "absence of such details, he held a genuine belief, based on guidance published on the Judiciary website, which he claims to have consulted that very morning, and professional training he had received, that no order could restrict him from reporting the material that he included in the video".

Mr Caldecott said the Attorney General "does not accept this version of events".

The Attorney General's case was that publication of the video "gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded".

Mr Caldecott said the Attorney General considers Robinson's conduct during the Leeds Crown Court trial is of "great concern".

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 told the court Robinson also said he searched online for guidelines on reporting restrictions before his broadcast and had undergone media training after an earlier contempt finding was made against him at Canterbury Crown Court.

The barrister said 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.

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.

After the court's decision was announced, the crowd outside the Old Bailey booed and chanted "shame on you".

The full hearing will be on July 4 and 5 at the Old Bailey.

Press Association

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