Journalists have won a legal challenge to report on the arrest and subsequent jailing of English Defence League founder “Tommy Robinson” after he live streamed details about an active trial that is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, used Facebook Live to broadcast details about the ongoing trial outside Leeds Crown Court on Friday last week when he was arrested and later charged with contempt of court for the second time, it was reported.
Because of the risk of his comments on the trial prejudicing a jury, the reporting of Robinson’s own case also had a reporting restriction imposed on it under Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act.
The media gag, which was due to stay in place until the conclusion of the other trial, was successfully challenged in court by Leeds Live and in writing by The Independent.
A spokesman for The Independent said: “After Robinson’s arrest was broadcast live on social media and his assistants reported his imprisonment, the reporting restriction was effectively made redundant.
“The British media was left in the uncomfortable position of watching international outlets and members of the public spread inaccurate information and conspiracy theories that it was powerless to correct.
“It is a position we fear journalists will find themselves in more frequently in the years ahead, unless contempt of court law is urgently brought up to date.”
Today, both news websites were able to report that Robinson (pictured) had been jailed for 13 months after Judge Marson QC lifted reporting restrictions following their submissions.
Robinson’s sentence follows a previous conviction on the same charge last year for which he received a suspended sentence that was still in force when he filmed his comments outside the court last week.
According to PA, Robinson received 10 months for contempt of court and a further three months for breaching the terms of his suspended sentence.
In her sentencing remarks in the case against Robinson last year, Judge Heather Norton said: “This contempt hearing is not about free speech. This is not about the freedom of the press.
“This is not about legitimate journalism, this is not about political correctness, this is not about whether one political viewpoint is right or another. It is about justice and it is about ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly.
“It is about ensuring that a jury are not in any way inhibited from carrying out their important function.
“It is about being innocent until proven guilty. It is not about people prejudging a situation and going round to that court and publishing material, whether in print or online, referring to defendants as ‘Muslim paedophile rapists’.
“A legitimate journalist would not be able to do that and under the strict liability rule there would be no defence to publication in those terms.
“It is pejorative language which prejudges the case, and it is language and reporting – if reporting indeed is what it is – that could have had the effect of substantially derailing the trial.”
Picture: Reuters/Andrew Winning