Published: 13:15, 26 May 2017
The founder of the far-right English Defence League has been given a suspended jail sentence – after “gatecrashing” a courthouse where four men were on trial for gang rape.
Tommy Robinson, who appeared under his real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had arrived at Canterbury Crown Court as evidence was still being given.
Claiming to work for the Canadian-based online Rebel Media, he walked through the concourse intending to confront the defendants.
But Robinson, whose right-wing beliefs are broadcast on the Internet, was given a judicial ear-bashing about British laws.
Judge Heather Norton told him: "This is not about free speech... not about the freedom of the Press, nor about legitimate journalism, and not about political correctness.
“It is about justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly..it’s about being innocent until proven guilty.
“It is about preserving the integrity of the jury to continue without people being intimidated..or being affected by irresponsible and inaccurate "reporting", if that’s what it was.”
After discovering that security staff had made arrangements for the jury and the defendants to leave by a side entrance, he began making a “piece to camera” - filming inside the court building, in which he accused the police of colluding in a cover-up.
Yaxley-Lennon was later arrested for being in contempt of court because it’s an offence to make videos or take photographs inside court.
He was ordered to appear in front of Canterbury’s top judge, when he then apologised for his breach of the ruling.
The 34-year-old, from Luton, was given a three-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months after arriving for the hearing with a QC, another barrister and a solicitor – all paid for by his supporters.
The judge told him: “On May 8, as proceedings in a rape trial were still ongoing, you attended with another and carried out filming on the court steps and inside the building.
“Both of those film pieces were then published on the Internet under a heading which read: ‘Tommy Robinson in Canterbury exposing child rapists. Police help them escape’.
“This was a deliberate action on your part to take photographs of the defendants, actions which you continued in spite of being told not to do it.
“You made it abundantly clear that your mission was to film the defendants, who you referred to by their religion, as ‘Muslim child rapists’ and ‘Muslim paedophiles’.
“I take a very dim view of your conduct which was in the face of repeated warnings.”
Robinson admitted he had come to the court to film the defendants, but was foiled by “the good offices of the court’s security staff” who had alerted the judge.
The judge said: “There are notices all over the court building making it clear that filming or taking a photograph was an offence and maybe a contempt of court.
“I take a very dim view of your conduct which was in the face of repeated warnings" - Judge Heather Norton
“You were told very clearly by the security staff at this court that you were to stop filming.”
She added that responsible members of the Press, "like the Kentish Gazette" would never have breached the strict liability rules which apply to ongoing cases.
Richard Kovalevsky QC, defending, said Yaxley-Lennon had been told by police officers and an usher at a magistrates court in Luton he could film in the precincts but not in the courtroom.
He added that Yaxley-Lennon’s intention was not to “frustrate” the court process “but quite the opposite”.
The QC asked for a prison sentence to be suspended because Yaxley-Lennon had received death threats after his association with the right-wing EDL – although he has not been a member since 2013.
More by this authorPaul Hooper