As young Constables we were taught that
"Justice must not only be done, it must manifestly be seen to be done".
Police should be prepared to have every decision publicly scrutinised when they put someone in the dock.
Fair enough too.
By suppressing media reporting on Tommy Robinson, His Honour Justice Geoffrey Marson QC appears to have forgotten that legal maxim.
Last Friday His Honour heard Case number S20180448 - a charge that Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) was in contempt of His Honour's court.
Lennon had a previous conviction on a contempt of court charge before Her Honour Judge Norton in the Crown Court at Canterbury.
He was subject to the immediate imposition of a 3 month jail sentence for any further similar convictions. He was amply warned about the consequences of further offending, in Her Honour's words:
There will be no conditions that need to be attached to that suspended sentence, but you should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated, and that would be on top of anything else that you were given by any other court. In short, Mr. Yaxley-Lennon, turn up at another court, refer to people as "Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists" and so on and so forth while trials are ongoing and before there has been a finding by a jury that that is what they are, and you will find yourself inside. Do you understand? Thank you very much.
No witnesses were apparently called to Judge Marson QC's hearing last Friday beyond arresting police.
Lennon/Robinson's offending was videoed by the offender himself and live streamed to an audience of around 10,000 engaged and active people.
Lennon/Robinson has made multiple references to the previous contempt finding - and importantly to the behaviour described "in short" by Judge Norton, "Turn up at another court, refer to people as "Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists" and so on".
The evidence of whether or not he was compliant with that advice is in the video he streamed. He appears to have stuck to the letter of the advice Judge Norton gave him.
He also appears to have stuck to the letter of the law/administrative notice concerning the delineation of the Leeds Court's boundary.
He appears to have an arguable case that he was not in contempt - but that argument wasn't put. That was always going to make Marson's finding and sentence controversial - and his decision to suppress reporting even dumber.
Tommy was arrested by police and was advised he was under arrest for incitement and a breach of the peace. All of that is on the video too. Those charges weren't put to the court on Friday, which calls into question the power to arrest him at the time. But the power of arrest wasn't argued in court by Tommy either.
In all of those circumstances it was crazy brave and obviously appealable of Judge Geoffrey Marson QC to make the following Postponement (ie Suppression of reporting) Order under the Contempt of Court Act Section 4 (2).
The UK Contempt of Court Act provides that
"..a person is not guilty of contempt of court under the strict liability rule in respect of a fair and accurate report of legal proceedings held in public, published contemporaneously and in good faith".
That's a pretty big out. Was Tommy's contemporaneous reporting accurate and in good faith? One could argue a case either way - on balance it appears to me that it was.
Did he stick to Her Honour Judge Norton's advice about calling defendants "Muslim rapists, Muslim Paedophiles" etc? Apparently so.
Marson QC made his Postponement on Reporting Order only in respect of Tommy's matter:
Case Number S20180448
In the Crown Court at Leeds
the matter of
Regina v Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon
Whether in Contempt of Court
Marson QC's suppression order is nonsense. He is required under the Act to give his reason(s) for making the order - he says the reason for suppressing reporting was that "it appears to be necessary for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in these proceedings"
How so Your Honour? You are the Court. You had heard and determined the matter. Yet you felt it necessary to make the gag order to avoid a substantial risk of prejudice to your own decision?
The Act also allows for a Court to find the publication might prejudice a different case(s), however that was not the reason given by Marson QC.
Reporting on Robinson was suppressed to prevent prejudice in the Robinson case.
It was a silly order unlikely to survive any application for review. Two such applications have now been heard by the Crown Court at Leeds - by The Indepent here and Leeds Live here. The Postponement Order is now lifted.
Here's The Independent's copy:
Tommy Robinson has been jailed for 13 months for breaking contempt of court laws with a Facebook Live video.
His sentence can be revealed for the first time after The Independent and Leeds Live fought a reporting restriction put on the case at Leeds Crown Court.
Robinson, whose real name was listed on court documents as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was arrested outside the court on Friday.
This authoritative and well constructed AP article is published in The Australian today.
- Tommy pleaded guilty
- He broadcast incorrect and prejudicial information about the defendants and the charges they face
- His lawyer Matthew Harding says Tommy has “deep regret” after realising the potential consequences of his actions and added: “I have to be realistic in relation to the submission that what he did was provocative in challenging individuals.”
- Tommy's prior convictions include assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possessing drugs, threatening behaviour, disobeying a court order, possessing identity documents with intent and fraud.
Tommy Robinson, a prominent far-right activist in Britain, has been jailed for 13 months for potentially derailing a major trial after live-streaming outside the court in violation of reporting restrictions.
Robinson, 35, was arrested on Friday at Leeds Crown Court in northern England, where he was broadcasting details of the long running trial on Facebook. It was viewed 250,000 times.
Judge Geoffrey Marson told Robinson that his actions could be “highly prejudicial to the defendants in the trial.” He said Robinson had broadcast details of the defendants and the charges they face, including some wrong information.
Robinson was earlier convicted of contempt of court in May 2017 for broadcasting at a rape trial and given a three-month suspended sentence. The judge in that case told him that he would be imprisoned if he committed “a further contempt of court by similar actions.”
He pleaded guilty on Friday to contempt of court and breaching the terms of his suspended sentence.
A strict order remains in place that temporarily bans publication or broadcasting details of the case or anyone involved. At the time of the incident a jury was considering its verdicts after a six-week trial.
The judge in Leeds imposed a reporting restriction on Robinson’s latest conviction, but it was successfully challenged by media outlets.
Robinson, (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon), is founder of the now-defunct English Defence League and helped to develop Pegida UK, an anti-Islam protest movement.
A self-styled journalist and commentator he regularly issues anti-Muslim statements online.
His lawyer, Matthew Harding, said Robinson felt “deep regret” after realising the potential consequences of his actions and added: “I have to be realistic in relation to the submission that what he did was provocative in challenging individuals.”
Robinson has a criminal record dating back to 2005, when he was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He also has convictions for possessing drugs, threatening behaviour, disobeying a court order, possessing identity documents with intent and fraud.
A married father of three, he founded the English Defence League in Luton in 2009 before resigning in 2013.