Published: Fri, June 01, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Right-wing Activist Tommy Robinson Arrested by UK Police

Right-wing Activist Tommy Robinson Arrested by UK Police

Robinson, 35, whose real is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was arrested outside Leeds Crown Court on Friday after using social media to broadcast details of an ongoing trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

The far-right leader was already serving a suspended sentence for 18 months for contempt of court over a case in Canterbury previous year.

The judge in that case told him that he would be imprisoned if he committed "a further contempt of court by similar actions".

Robinson was arrested of Leeds Crown Court on Friday. It was viewed a quarter of a million times.

He was a member of the nativist British National Party before co-founding the English Defence League, which he led from 2009 until 2013, when he joined a Muslim-friendly, anti-extremist think tank called the Quilliam Foundation.

Matthew Harding, defending, said his client felt "deep regret" over his actions.

Contempt of court is the crime of ignoring the court and its constitutional role in making sure that justice is done.

Robinson pleaded guilty on Friday to contempt of court and breaching the terms of his suspended sentence.

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But as British newspapers remained largely silent on the issue due to reporting restrictions, the episode has highlighted Robinson's growing popularity outside Britain.

He read out the names and charges against the defendants - some of which he got wrong - and also approached them as they arrived at court.

Reporting restrictions had initially been in place preventing the media from reporting his latest conviction, but these were lifted following a legal challenge on Tuesday.

His supporters insist freedom of speech is at stake, while critics say he was actually putting the successful outcome of criminal trials at risk.

"No-one could possibly conclude that it would be anything other than highly prejudicial to the defendants in the trial", said Judge Geoffrey Marson QC, presiding. "That's one of the most most important rights that we have".

And as Judge Marson told Robinson, the retrial could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The restrictions were ridiculed online, as details of the case were easily available on social media and some USA outlets, with many prominent figures sharing details and the hashtag #FreeTommy trending on Twitter. He also has convictions for disobeying a court order, possessing identity documents with intent, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possessing drugs and threatening behaviour.

The group that Robinson helped c0-found years ago, the EDL, is opposed to the spread of "militant Islam". On Robinson he tweeted "He's a convicted fraudster who broke strict reporting laws, without which trials of alleged rapists would collapse and alleged rapists would walk free".

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