This post will be part of a series, Pedo Panic in the UK, to be appearing here shortly. That series will dissect the “grooming gang” hysteria that has gripped parts of England for over a decade, the numerous historical child abuse inquiries that have been launched to uncover possible abuses committed years ago (some of the alleged perpetrators are long dead), and a moral panic that bears some remarkable parallels to the “grooming” situation – the Satanic ritual abuse cases that tore through English council estates in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
I don’t want to devote a lot of space to the anti-Islam
shithead activist known as “Tommy Robinson” [actual name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon]. I owe him a degree of gratitude for drawing my attention to the grooming hysteria with his most recent douchebaggery, but I find him to be one of those tiresome attention whores who doesn’t deserve our attention. Everything there is to say about this guy has been said by others. I will not repeat any of it here.
I include this section only to clear up the misconceptions about his conviction that have spurred “Free Tommy” rallies all over the world. He has the support of the Drudge Report, Alex Jones, a Dutch MP (Geert Wilders) who believes “Tommy’s” arrest signals that “the lights of freedom are going out”, a German MP (Petr Bystron) who actually offered to help him seek political asylum in Germany, half a million people who signed an online petition to free him, and the son of a sitting U.S. President (Donald Trump Jr. tweeted of Robinson’s arrest: “Reason #1776 for the original #brexit”).
To hear the loudspeaker rants and read the tweets, you would think that a grave and peculiar miscarriage of justice has been playing out in England, that a “citizen journalist” was dragooned simply for “speaking out against crime” and “exercising his rights.”
But the truth is…
This is not a free speech issue. “Robinson’s” actions fall under the strict liability rule in the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which you can read here. In addition, Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act of 1925 (still in force and effect) forbids taking “a photograph, portrait or sketch” not only in courtrooms, but “in the building or in the precincts of the building in which the court is held, or if it is a photograph, portrait or sketch taken or made of the person while he is entering or leaving the court–room or any such building or precincts as aforesaid.” [emphasis mine]
If you object to what happened to “Robinson”, then you object to the law itself. Perhaps you should focus on that instead of defending some anti-Muslim goofball. If you’re concerned about jailed journalists, there are many more that you can support.
No journalist, citizen or otherwise, is permitted to film defendants outside the courts in England. You can film them some distance away, which is what actual journalists do.
“Tommy Robinson” knew the law and its consequences perfectly well, because he was arrested for contempt of court after he attempted to take video of the defendants in a rape case outside Canterbury Crown Court in May 2017. Four British-Afghan men stood accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in Ramsgate earlier that year. “Robinson” was working for The Rebel Media, a Canadian outfit, at the time. The Rebel pays by the story but does not always give specific assignments, and its “reporters” (very few of whom have any journalistic background or training) are encouraged to go out and get stories on their own time. Ramsgate was the story “Robinson” chose to tell.
The Rebel was founded by Ezra Levant, a lawyer and former journalist. With his background, Levant could be giving his employees and correspondents crash courses in how to obey laws and hew to basic principles of journalistic integrity so as to avoid legal trouble. It seems that he is not doing that. I don’t know if “Robinson” was aware at the time that English law forbids filming outside of courthouses.
But he was certainly aware of it one year later, in May 2018, when he showed up for one of the Halifax trials at Leeds Crown Court and did the same thing again. The previous year, at Canterbury Crown Court, the judge (HHJ Norton) had handed him a suspended three-month sentence, but warned him with great specificity what could happen if he breached the law again. Norton told him he “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 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?” You can read the entirety of Judge Norton’s ruling and sentencing remarks here.
It is apparent from “Robinson’s” video footage taken at Leeds Crown Court that he was making token attempts to stay within the limits of the law – he sporadically used the word “alleged” to refer to the defendants and so forth. However, it’s also apparent that by showing up outside the court with a camera after being strongly cautioned just one year earlier, he wanted to be arrested. He wanted to play the martyr and garner more attention.
He didn’t need to be there at all. Britons are well aware of the Halifax trials and the defendants. Standing outside the courthouse reiterating known facts and racist twaddle helps no one. “Robinson” is free to say whatever he likes about Muslims. He just can’t do it directly outside a courthouse, with a camera.
“Robinson” and the court that sentenced him to prison are on the same side. Robinson likes to call himself an enemy of the state, but he is no such thing. Both he and the Crown want to secure convictions in this grooming trial. The Crown has to get convictions to sustain the Pakistani Predator narrative, because the latest batch of Rotherham cases has been thrown out for lack of evidence.
“Robinson” was endangering those convictions with his unnecessary and foolish behaviour. The courts are not protecting the defendants. THEY WANT THOSE CONVICTIONS. “Robinson” is not a political prisoner.
He was not denied the counsel of his choice. Robinson’s defenders make much of the fact that he was assigned a public defender (known in England as a “duty solicitor”). That indicates to them that he was not permitted to find the barrister of his choice. In reality, defendants are assigned public defenders for any number of sensible reasons: They can’t afford to hire their own counsel, they can’t find anyone to represent them pro bono, or their preferred counsel is not available. In “Robinson’s” case, it seems to be the last reason, because he does have a lawyer by the name of Alison Gurden.
However, it’s possible that “Tommy Robinson” cannot afford counsel at this time. He does not have a job. He owned a tanning salon in Luton years ago, but gave up the skin-cooking biz to establish and lead the English Defence League. He no longer works for The Rebel Media. He has penned a couple of books that continue to sell briskly, but he’s certainly no Jeffrey Archer or Patricia Cornwell in the sales department. Perhaps he is more or less indigent, and has to rely on the British court system for legal aid – which is one of the things he found most abhorrent about the defendants in the “grooming” trials. Again and again, he pointed out how much the men were costing British taxpayers by “demanding” separate lawyers or asking for translators. It would be very interesting if he was gobbling at the public trough.
Alison Gurden has declined to comment on why she was unable or unwilling to represent “Robinson” at his contempt hearing. She specializes in defending football fans, sex offenders and U.S. defendants facing the death penalty, so she might have been very busy at the time.
The duty solicitor who represented “Robinson” is no slouch, by the way. Matthew Harding has a solid background in both defense and prosecution work, and has been in practice for over 15 years.
All this talk about “Robinson’s” counsel is moot, though. He pled guilty.
He was not sent to the gulag. There is this notion among his supporters that “Robinson” was hustled into police custody in great secrecy, that he was disappeared like Chilean dissidents or Japanese citizens of the ’70s. This is because a temporary media ban (known as a “postponement order”) was placed on his arrest and conviction and would not have been lifted until the conclusion of the Halifax trial. This is common practice in the UK (see Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981), and media bans may be instituted for an array of reasons: To protect the identity or security of victims, to prevent the compromising of due process by sensational media coverage, to shield witnesses or jurors, etc.
However, the ban did not extend beyond UK borders, and media outlets all over the world immediately reported that “Robinson” had been detained. In Canada, the outrage was sparked by “Robinson’s” former employer, The Rebel Media.
All of this is moot now, because the news website Leeds Live challenged the postponement order and the judge lifted the ban within days of “Robinson’s” conviction. That is also a fairly common occurrence in the UK.
His sentence was not unusually harsh for contempt of court. He could have received up to two years (see Section 14 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981). Instead, he received 10 months, with the previous suspended sentence of 3 months activated, for a total of 13 months. That is precisely what Judge Norton told him would happen when she issued her crystal-clear warning to him last year.
There was due process. The Criminal Procedure Rules for contempt of court were followed. Nothing unusual happened here.
The hearing was not secret. It was open to the public, and members of the press were present (including Stephanie Finnegan, the court reporter for Leeds Live who successfully challenged the postponement order).
We know where “Robinson” will be serving his sentence (Hull prison).
The hearing and sentencing were speedy for three reasons:
- The defendant pled guilty.
- Contempt of court charges are often handled in summary proceedings. They are not drawn-out affairs.
- It was a second offense. He was warned one year ago that he could face jail time if he committed another offense. That made sentencing pretty easy for the judge.
Now let’s move on.