Tommy Robinson encouraged mob rule and risked a serious breach of justice by broadcasting footage of defendants in a grooming trial, a High Court judge said today.
Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, encouraged his supporters to harass men accused of sexual crimes against women and young girls, according to Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby.
The former English Defence League leader was found guilty of contempt of court last week and faces up to three years in jail for filming the defendants at their 2018 trial and live-streaming the footage on Facebook. He will be sentenced on Thursday.
Explaining why he was convicted, the judge said Robinson’s behaviour almost caused the trial to collapse, meaning the guilty men would have walked free.
Lawyers for two of the defendants argued the video meant the jury would not be able to reach a fair verdict and should be disbanded.
The judges concluded Robinson committed contempt of court by breaching reporting restrictions.
The ruling found his actions posed ‘a substantial risk that the course of justice in that case would be seriously impeded’ and interfered with the course of justice by ‘aggressively confronting and filming some of the defendants in that case as they arrived at court’.
The judges also found that Robinson was “quite deliberately” reporting on the case, which he had told his viewers was the subject of a reporting restriction, and rejected his evidence that he had made checks in the court as “not credible”.
Dame Victoria said Robinson’s right to freedom of expression “could not justify an interference with fair trial rights”.
She added: “The rule of law demands that those who act in such a way as to subvert due process should be held to account, whether or not they actually threaten the fairness of the end result.
“These are essential principles which must be given weight in a democratic society.
“On the facts of this case the weight to be given to these valuable principles comfortably exceeds that to be given to forms of expression used by the respondent such as ‘How are you feeling about your verdict?’ or ‘You got your prison bag with you?’.”
Throughout the Old Bailey hearing, Robinson denied any wrongdoing, saying he did not believe he was breaching reporting restrictions and only referred to information that was already in the public domain.