Tommy Robinson denies reporting ban breach and believed he would be 'killed in prison'

Tommy Robinson believed he would be "killed in prison" after broadcasting footage on social media of defendants in a criminal trial, the Old Bailey has heard.

The former English Defence League (EDL) leader is accused of contempt of court by filming suspects on trial over the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streaming footage on social media - breaching a reporting ban.

Robinson said he did not believe he was breaching the reporting restrictions, which postponed the publication of any details about the case until the end of a series of linked trials involving 29 defendants.

The 36-year-old, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, broadcast the footage from outside Leeds Crown Court on 25 May 2018 while the jury in the second trial was considering its verdict.

On Thursday, he was cross-examined for about half an hour by lawyers for the Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC about "inconsistencies" in different versions of events he has given.

He told the court that he "erred on the side of caution" when he spoke about the trial in his live-streamed video.

Robinson said he knew there was a reporting restriction in place and made checks on the day of the broadcast to see if the restriction had been lifted.

But he said he thought it "didn't matter" as long as he didn't give details about the case.

He said he only discussed information which had been published about earlier hearings, before the reporting ban was in place.

Robinson told the court: "I didn't talk about the first trial, I didn't talk about details.

"I didn't report on the proceedings, I simply reported public information."

Andrew Caldecott QC asked Robinson if he remembered being directed to the court's general office by a security officer to check if the reporting restriction was still in place.

Robinson replied saying he couldn't remember.

Mr Caldecott said: "I'm suggesting to you that the reason you didn't go to the office... was because you wanted to film the defendants who you knew tended to arrive early at court."

Robinson replied: "I took the view that it didn't matter, if I wasn't going to report on the details of the case, and that if I was only going to stick to details in the public domain, it didn't matter."

He said he believed images of defendants accused of such serious crimes should be made public, adding: "My total purpose is to raise awareness of these issues."

Robinson was then asked why he didn't mention making the checks on the reporting restriction in a witness statement before his appeal hearing in 2018.

He explained that he was in prison at the time and had "given up" because he did not think he would be released, adding: "I believed I would be killed in prison, I didn't think I was going to be released.

"I had given up... I genuinely was under the impression that I had been put in jail to be killed, so I had given up.

"I didn't think I was coming out of there."

Robinson also told the court he had received training in media law after making previous mistakes in reporting.

He said the "main thing" he took from his training was not to assume guilt and said he made that point "so clear" in his broadcast.

Mr Caldecott previously told the court that Robinson was aware there was an order in place and that his broadcast was "subjectively reckless".

Robinson, from Luton in Bedfordshire, could be sent back to jail if he is again found in contempt, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of two years.

He was jailed for 13 months in May 2018 following his previous trial.

The sentence included three months for contempt at Canterbury Crown Court in May 2017, which was suspended at the time.

But he was freed from prison after serving two months of his sentence following the Court of Appeal's decision to quash the finding of contempt made in Leeds.

In the video, which lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times after being live-streamed on Facebook, he discussed a trial of members of a Huddersfield grooming gang.

The contempt hearing, before Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby, is due to last for two days.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting