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If you want to know the real reasons why the anti-Islam activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (whose stage name is Tommy Robinson) is facing a possible jail sentence for contempt of court, read the judgement: judiciary.uk/judgments/atto…
Two judges say he committed 3 contempts (as reported last Friday). SYL broke an order postponing reporting of a trial of men who ran a sexual grooming gang. His Facebook stream at the court led to a "substantial risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded"
And the judges say "aggressively" confronted and filmed some of the defendants "thereby directly interfering with the course of justice." In their view that amounted to a "serious interference with the administration of justice.”
The upshot of this was the trial almost collapsed and guilty men could have walked free. Lawyers for two of the defendants tried to have the jury discharged on the basis they couldn't reach fair verdicts. A week after the video, an English Defence League mob arrived at the Court.
They were protesting SYL's imprisonment. One of the defendants, Sajid Hussain, absconded after his barrister had raised concerns on his behalf about the demonstration.
Lawyers for grooming gang defendants demanded yet again that the trial be stopped and the jury discharged because of the now double-whammy of the Yaxley-Lennon video + English Defence League demo. The judge rejected that - and the jury finally convicted the defendants.
In November 2018 one of the convicted men, Faisal Nadeem, appealed unsuccessfully his conviction saying his fair trial case had compromised by Yaxley-Lennon's actions.
On to the evidence. Yaxley-Lennon says he tried to find out about reporting restrictions preventing his Facebook stream of the case. The judges reject this. He didn't ask staff at the general office or the court clerk - both of whom could have checked the computer system.
The judgement does however note that there was a "regrettable departure from standard practice" by not having the reporting restriction also highlighted on court listings screens in the building. (Reporter observation: this happens regularly - that's why we ask the court clerk)
Yaxley-Lennon says he wasn't reckless & asked about a restriction. The judges disagree saying his actions were not comparable to professional journalists.
"Breaches of these orders by media organisations are extremely rare. This is doubtless because professional journalists reporting on legal proceedings are generally well- informed, careful, and well-advised, and because the Court is ready to provide copies of [orders] when asked"
Judges: "We are entirely satisfied that [Yaxley-Lennon] had actual knowledge that there was an order in force restricting reporting of the trial. He said as much, repeatedly, on the Video itself."
The judges go further: "[Stephen Yaxley-Lennon] has had many opportunities to explain the steps he took to inform himself about the terms of the [restriction]. His version of events has developed and changed. The account he now gives is not credible."
One of Yaxley-Lennon's claims - that he checked an official guide on how to report the criminal courts - was another "late and implausible" addition to his defence, say the judges.
Key section of the judgement concerns whether Yaxley-Lennon, to all intents and purposes, intimidated some of the defendants and incited their harassment, making it more likely the trial would be impeded:
Another part of the transcript of SYL's Facebook live stream:
(Apols if you are offended by the F word - that's straight from the judgement and relevant to understanding the case)
The judges have this to say about arguments from Yaxley-Lennon's counsel, Richard Furlong, that the video didn't risk impeding justice:
And the judges conclude: [Part of the Facebook stream was] an encouragement to others to harass a defendant by finding him, knocking on his door, following him, and watching him, and this gave rise to a real risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded."
Yaxley-Lennon was encouraging mob rule by social media (this really is a damning judgement):
This is a really, really important point from the judges about why Yaxley-Lennon's Leeds video was deemed to be so dangerous. In short, we moved beyond the Hue and Cry and stringing people up 200 years ago:
A judicial smack-down of Yaxley-Lennon's claims to a free speech defence: "The weight to be given to [the right to a fair trial] comfortably exceeds that to be given to forms of expression... such as 'How are you feeling about your verdict... You got your prison bag with you?'"
That's your lot - thanks for reading. I'll be in court for Yaxley-Lennon's sentencing on Thursday (assuming it is not adjourned).
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