Tommy Robinson hearing: pubs around Old Bailey to close ahead of protests

Tommy Robinson will be retried on a contempt of court charge.
Tommy Robinson will be retried on a contempt of court charge. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

A number of pubs around the Old Bailey are to close following police advice, bar staff have told the Guardian, in anticipation of protests during a hearing for rightwing activist Tommy Robinson.

Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – has been on bail since August after the court of appeal quashed his 13-month sentence for breaching reporting restrictions at Leeds and Canterbury crown courts. In both cases he had confronted defendants while livestreaming on Facebook.

Robinson now faces a rerun of the original hearing, which was held in May, before the recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard.

More than 1,500 people have indicated on Facebook that they intend to protest outside the Old Bailey in support of Robinson on Thursday. A counter-demonstration organised by anti-racist groups has attracted 160 supporters.

Liam Dugglevy, assistant manager at the Viaduct Tavern on Newgate Street, across the road from the court, said his pub would delay opening its doors until at least the early evening, when staff would assess whether it was safe to open.

“We had a warning from our licensing guys which basically advised us to get rid of all removable furniture and glassware,” he said. Two other nearby pubs said they would stay closed on the advice of the police, while a staff member at a third said he hoped his would too. Another bar said it would remain open.

A spokesman for the City of London police said that the force had plans to police the demonstration. “We have been going around speaking to local businesses around the Old Bailey to make them aware that this is happening and this will impact their business,” he said.

Pubs had been advised to take precautions, including using plastic rather than glass to serve drinks, but this stopped short of recommending that they close, he added.

Previous demonstrations connected to Robinson, a co-founder of the English Defence League, have ended in violence. In June, riot police were deployed to a protests in Whitehall calling for him to be freed from jail after scaffolding, bottles and street furniture were hurled at police, injuring 21 officers. The following month 12 people were arrested at a second “free Tommy” demonstration coinciding with a visit to the UK by Donald Trump.

Robinson has said he expects to be jailed for two years and that he was “being prosecuted because I’m Tommy Robinson, nothing else”.

In a livestream on Facebook he encouraged supporters to demonstrate outside the Old Bailey and said it was “judgment day for the British government” and that “the world is watching”.

Robinson said he had been advised by lawyers to apologise and plead guilty. “If I don’t do that – which, I’m not going to do that – then I will be going to prison ... I’m going to stand on my convictions,” he said.