Backlash as Tommy Robinson is jailed
Police clash with far-right supporters as EDL founder is convicted of contempt over Facebook video post
Riot police had to tackle bottle-hurling supporters of the English Defence League founder yesterday after he was jailed for contempt of court. Following skirmishes at the Old Bailey, protesters attempted to march on Parliament as Stephen Yaxley-lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, was jailed over a Facebook broadcast about a trial involving an Asian grooming gang. Outside court the crowd surged toward officers hurling bottles and chanting “paedo protectors” and “shame” at them.
RIOT police were called in to tackle supporters of the founder of the English Defence League yesterday after he was jailed for nine months for contempt of court.
There were skirmishes outside the Old Bailey before a hardcore of protesters attempted to march on Parliament as Stephen Yaxley-lennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, was imprisoned for inciting vigilantism in a Facebook broadcast he had made about a trial involving an Asian grooming gang.
While Yaxley-lennon showed no emotion as two High Court judges told him he would be imprisoned for around 10 weeks, outside around 200 people surged towards officers hurling bottles of beer and chanting “paedo protectors” and “shame on you”.
When the group moved on, a gang of about 50 men and women, many draped in Union flags, marched along the Strand toward Parliament Square and the offices of Geoffrey Cox QC, the Attorney General who brought the contempt case against Yaxley-lennon, from Luton, Bedfordshire.
There was a series of increasingly tense exchanges as the group shouted insults at police and journalists, with one television crew bearing the brunt of the aggression as their equipment was attacked.
Scores of officers were dispatched to guard key London sites along the demonstrators’ route. Officers formed a cordon blocking the entrance to the High Courts of Justice where protesters unfurled “Free Tommy Robinson” banners and a St George’s flag emblazoned with “England”.
They then congregated outside the Attorney General’s office next to Westminster Abbey, where rows of police stood guard.
One supporter was pinned to the ground by officers before being hauled into a van, prompting protesters to try to stop the vehicle leaving. Four arrests were made by City of London police, three outside the Old Bailey and one outside Westminster Abbey.
All arrests related to incidents that took place last Friday, when Yaxleylennon was found in contempt following a two-day hearing.
Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby found he had been “reckless” in failing to establish details of a reporting ban imposed to ensure three linked trials involving grooming gangs could take place fairly before media coverage was allowed. They said his video, which lasted 90 minutes, showed him “aggressively” confronting defendants, urging viewers to find out where they live. The uploaded material was seen by 3.4 million people.
Arriving at court, Yaxley-lennon wore a T-shirt declaring he was “convicted of journalism”. But the Society of Editors condemned his claims as a “dangerous distortion of the truth”, adding that even a junior reporter would understand the perils of flouting contempt laws.
Yaxley-lennon had been jailed for 13 months for contempt at Leeds Crown Court on the day of the broadcast in May last year. He served 10 weeks in prison before being freed after that contempt finding was overturned.
Earlier this year, the Attorney General said it was in the public interest to bring fresh proceedings against him.
Mr Cox last night said that “posting material online that breaches reporting restrictions or risks prejudicing legal proceedings has consequences”.
Yaxley-lennon was told because of time already spent in jail for the initial contempt finding, he would serve just 10 weeks of his prison sentence for encouraging vigilantism.
Far-right activist Stephen Yaxleylennon, who calls himself Tommy Robinson, arrives at the Old Bailey. Below, riot police tackle one of his supporters