English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson is rightfully behind bars.
Robinson, also known as Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, 35, was jailed for contempt of court after an ‘hour-long rant’ outside Leeds Crown Court. See here for the full report: https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/crime/why-tommy-robinson-was-jailed-over-facebook-rant-outside-leeds-crown-court-1-9184513
You might not be familiar with contempt – but in a nutshell there are laws which ensure those up in court have a fair trial – and nothing is published which could threaten that basic right.
The likes of Secret Barrister and legal supremo David Banks explain it effortlessly.
But anyone with the most basic grasp of the law would look at what Robinson broadcast to thousands on Facebook and scream: “What on earth are you doing?”
Ignore all the conspiracy theories. Read the reports from court, from reputable sources, and you’ll realise Robinson was in the wrong. He pleaded guilty, surely ending the call to ‘Free Tommy Robinson’.
And having been convicted of contempt for almost identical behaviour last year, he had no excuses.
This case really frustrated the journalist in me. We train for months – and on the job for years – studying the law to stay on the right track.
The media is heavily restricted in what can be reported at various points of a defendant’s journey through the justice system.
With very few exceptions, us professionals adhere to the standards. Then, Robinson rocks on up with camera in hand and does as he pleases.
Those who seek to report or comment on criminal proceedings simply must grasp the basics.
Such extreme contempt cases are very rare.
But I have grave concerns that Robinson’s alarming antics expose a wider issue facing us.
Every week, I see examples of ‘trial by social media’, where the public comment freely on ongoing legal cases.
‘Guilty’, ‘Hang them’ and ‘Lock them up’ are often stock responses to some stories…even when the subject is simply charged.
And away from the courts, let’s not forget the daily defamatory dialogues trotted out, statements angrily typed with no hint of evidence. Councillors and politicians are easy targets. Further action is rare.
Perhaps it’s the actions of the likes of Robinson which creates such a care-free approach.
I hope this case helps educate the wider public about the laws journalists grapple with daily.
Remember, though, it’s about more than Robinson…