Tommy Robinson was "reckless" to Facebook live outside Leeds Crown Court, Old Bailey hears

Tommy Robinson was "reckless" and breached a reporting restriction because he wanted the public to see the faces of defendants in a criminal trial, High Court judges have heard.

By Rebecca Marano
Friday, 5th July 2019, 12:36 pm
Tommy Robinson. PA Picture.
Tommy Robinson. PA Picture.

Lawyers for Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC, whose application to have Robinson committed to prison is being heard at the Old Bailey, said the former English Defence League (EDL) leader's "whole objective" was to "get the defendants' faces out there".

Robinson is said to have committed contempt of court by filming defendants accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streaming the footage, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.

Andrew Caldecott QC, for the Attorney General, told the Old Bailey on Friday that a security officer at Leeds Crown Court said he had suggested Robinson check for reporting restrictions at the court office.

The barrister said the "critical question" was why Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, "declined the invitation to take this obvious step which would have put the matter beyond doubt".

He added: "We say the answer clearly is that he made a reckless assumption as to what he might be able to do because it suited him to do so, and the reason it suited him to do so was that his whole objective was to get the defendants' faces out there."

Mr Caldecott told Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby, who are hearing the case, Robinson "took a punt" by referring to details in previous reports of the Huddersfield grooming case - which had been published before the reporting ban was ordered.

He said: "Mr Yaxley-Lennon did find the Huddersfield Examiner online and he took a punt that because the names and the charges had been out there earlier, he took a punt on being able to get away with mentioning them to give necessary context to the people he was filming."

Robinson, who denies any wrongdoing, has said he did not believe he was breaching reporting restrictions and only referred to information that was already in the public domain.

Wearing a blue jacket, blue shirt and jeans, he sat next to his lawyers in court as Mr Caldecott summarised the Attorney General's case to the judges.

Robinson broadcast the footage on May 25, 2018 while the jury in the second grooming trial was considering its verdict.

A reporting restriction was in place which postponed the publication of any details of the case until the end of a series of linked trials involving 29 people, in a bid to ensure all defendants received a fair trial.

The 36-year-old, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was jailed for 13 months after being found in contempt of court on the day of the broadcast.

The video lasted an hour-and-a-half and was viewed online 250,000 times after being live-streamed on Facebook.

He served two months in jail before being freed after that finding of contempt was overturned by the Court of Appeal in August 2018.

But the case was then referred back to the Attorney General, who announced in March that it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against Robinson.

Dame Victoria and Mr Justice Warby gave permission for the Attorney General to bring a new case against Robinson at a hearing in May.

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

A crowd of supporters outside court reached about 300 at its height on Thursday afternoon.

A smaller number gathered outside on Friday morning and a bus which was used to screen Robinson films was given a parking ticket on the road outside the Old Bailey.