Tommy Robinson Confuses Contempt of Court with Journalism

From Kent Live:

Controversial political activist Tommy Robinson has been arrested for contempt of court after attempting to interview four men on trial for raping a 16-year-old girl in Thanet.

Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, who took on the alias Tommy Robinson during his stint as leader of the English Defence League (EDL), was warned by police outside Canterbury Crown Court on Monday (May 8).

As the police descended down on his home early this morning (May 10), Robinson took to twitter to say the charges related to “attempted journalism.”

…A spokesperson for Kent Police said: “On Wednesday, officers attended an address in Luton, Bedfordshire, and arrested a 34-year-old man for contempt of court…”

…Robinson set up his own media venture, The Rebel, which films confrontations with alleged Muslim criminals.

That last part is slightly inaccurate: The Rebel is a Canadian media outlet run by Ezra Levant, who employs Robinson as a “contributor” (in the US, Rebel contributors include Jack Posobiec, who helped to promote “Pizzagate” conspiracy theories and who is currently in the news in relation to the “Macron leak” story).

There have been two main strands to Robinson’s “reporting” at The Rebel  confrontations with critics, and appearances outside court buildings during trials involving groups of men who have been accused of raping young girls; Robinson is exclusively interested in cases in which the defendants are men of Muslim heritage. As well as Canterbury, Robinson has shown up outside trials in Huddersfield and Oxford.

Robinson, of course, wants the public to believe that Muslim crimes are being covered up by a complicit media on behalf of a corrupt establishment, which is why he says he has been arrested simply for “journalism”. Ezra Levant, meanwhile, has connected the arrest to Robinson’s advocacy on behalf of a rape complainant in Sunderland, suggesting that police have acted because they have been “embarrassed” by Robinson’s reporting.

However, videos of Robinson’s “attempted journalism” in this area have for the most part consisted of him goading and abusing defendants as they enter the courts, and denouncing their friends and supporters for “defending” their crimes by asserting their innocence.

Obviously, this is legally problematic. In the UK, there are strict laws about what can be reported during a live trial, and one of the most basic rules is that a defendant should not be declared guilty in a media statement before a verdict has been reached. (1) Confronting defendants (and possibly witnesses) outside of a court is even more egregious, as it is likely to affect the composure of those who are about to give evidence. In the Canterbury case, the defendants also include one individual who is a juvenile and who as such cannot be named in the media – and it is doubtful that Robinson would have been mindful of this restriction in his filming.

UPDATE (27 May): Robinson appeared in court on 22 May. Afterwards, he made a short video in which he declared “victory” and a “court win”, but added that he was unable to go into the details. On 26 May it was revealed by Kent Live that he had pleaded guilty to contempt of court, and had received a suspended sentence. In mitigation, he explained that he had not been trained in media law, and that his life would be at risk in prison. It is not known why Robinson was unable to provide this particular context on 22 May, although the case was still on at that time. It concluded with guilty verdicts on 26 May.

Robinson maintains that he was given “3 month suspended prison sentence for trying to warn the public they were on bail living near them”, although the fact that other reporters covered the case for Kent Live and other media without falling foul of the law would suggest that this is a somewhat partial account of what happened.

Footnote

(1) Some fringe sites have clouded the issue by conflating Robinson’s videos with an old case from 2013, in which a man named Mohammed Karrar and his associates were jailed for “rape and trafficking” in Oxford.

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