Wednesday 1 August 2018

Mr Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) ~ Court of Appeal orders re-hearing

On 18 July, an appeal was heard in the contempt of court case of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).  On 1 August, the court - Lord Chief Justice (Lord Burnett), Turner and McGowan JJ - handed down judgment.

According to the Law Commission (2012), "Contempt of court" covers a wide variety of conduct which undermines or has the potential to undermine the course of justice, ..."

The events:

On 25 May, from the street outside the Leeds Crown Court, Mr Robinson used Facebook Live to broadcast as defendants arrived for the morning court hearing.  The broadcast lasted over an hour and Police Officers outside the court building were aware for most (perhaps all) of that time that he was "live streaming."  Mr Robinson was arrested and, the same day, he was held to be in contempt of court by His Honour Judge Geoffrey Marson QC who was conducting the second of three "linked trials" at the Crown Court in Leeds. 

There was a "postponement order" in place under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 section 4(2).  Such orders are often to be found where there is a series of "linked trials."  The aim of the order is to postpone reporting which could be prejudicial to a fair trial of defendants in either the present trial or a subsequent trial..

Section 4(1) and 4(2) state - Contemporary reports of proceedings:

(1) Subject to this section a person is not guilty of contempt of court under the strict liability rule in respect of a fair and accurate report of legal proceedings held in public, published contemporaneously and in good faith.

(2) In any such proceedings the court may, where it appears to be necessary for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those proceedings, or in any other proceedings pending or imminent, order that the publication of any report of the proceedings, or any part of the proceedings, be postponed for such period as the court thinks necessary for that purpose.

At the hearing, Mr Robinson was represented by Mr Matthew Harding, an experienced barrister.  Mr Robinson admitted the contempt and expressed remorse.

Mr Robinson had "previous" because he had been held to be in contempt of court in May 2017 at the Crown Court in Canterbury.  For that he had been committed to prison for 3 months suspended for 18 months.  See Judiciary - Yaxley-Lennon - Committal for Contempt of Court 22 May 2017

The outcome at Leeds was that Judge Marson committed Mr Robinson to prison for 10 months for the contempt at Leeds and also activated the Canterbury suspended term.  Hence, a total of 13 months.

The Judiciary website did not publish a report of the committal for contempt at Leeds although either a written judgment or a transcription of an oral judgment should be provided in accordance with this Practice Direction - (paras 13 to 15).

When it was first announced that there was to be an appeal it was said that it would be an appeal against sentence as opposed to challenging the committal for contempt itself.  However, at the 18 July appeal hearing Mr Robinson sought to have both the Leeds and the Canterbury findings quashed because of procedural errors.  Mr Jeremy Dein QC - representing Mr Robinson - argued that procedural "deficiencies" had given rise to "prejudice."  Mr Dein also submitted that the term of imprisonment was "manifestly excessive" and "insufficient" regard had been given to personal mitigation.

The court reserved judgment.

The reporting restriction relating to the trials at Leeds remains in force.

Court of Appeal judgment:

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in respect of the committal for contempt at Canterbury Crown Court.  However, the record of that committal is to be amended to use the language of committal rather than the language of sentencing.

The appeal in respect of the committal for contempt at Leeds Crown Court was allowed.  Mr Robinson was granted bail and the matter of contempt at Leeds Crown Court was remitted to be heard by the Recorder of London at the Old Bailey.  (Note - it does not have to re-heard in Leeds because the Crown Court is a single court covering the whole of England and Wales).

Read the Full Judgment (Bailii) or Full Judgment (pdf) and this summary at Crimeline

The court's reasons for quashing the Leeds commital are at para 77 -

It should be noted what the court stated at para 78 -

 and at para 86-87 -

Read the Full Judgment (Bailii) or Full Judgment (pdf) and this summary at Crimeline

Previous posts:

5 July 2018 and 1 June.

The Criminal Procedure Rules Part 48 deal with Contempt of Court.  See also Crown Prosecution Service

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