Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Truth about Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (a.k.a. Tommy Robinson)

Reporting restrictions have now been lifted about the circumstances in which Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, (who calls himself Tommy Robinson,) a former member of the BNP and co-founder of the English Defence League who has criminal convictions for common assault, intimidation, and mortgage fraud, has been sent to prison for contempt of court.

You can read about the case on the website of local news organisation LeedsLive here.

Here is what her Honour Judge Norton told Yaxley-Lennon last year when she handed him a three month prison sentence, suspended for eighteen months, for contempt of court over his behaviour at a rape trial in Canterbury over which she was presiding and which could have led to a miscarriage of justice in that trial.

"This contempt hearing is not about free speech. 

This is not about 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. 

As I have already indicated, because of what I knew was going on I had to take avoiding action to make sure that the integrity of this trial was preserved, that justice was preserved and that the trial could continue to completion without people being intimidated into reaching conclusions about it, or into being affected by “irresponsible and inaccurate reporting”. 

If something of the nature of that which you put out on social media had been put into the mainstream press I would have been faced with applications from the defence advocates concerned, I have no doubt, to either say something specific to the jury, or worse, to abandon the trial and to start again. 

That is the kind of thing that actions such as these can and do have, and that is why you have been dealt with in the way in which you have and why I am dealing with this case with the seriousness which I am.”

She then added that he

"should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought, a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated, and that would be on top of anything else that you were given by any other court.

In short, Mr Yaxley-Lennon, turn up at another court, refer to people as “Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists” and so and so forth while trials are ongoing and before there has been a finding by a jury that that is what they are, and you will find yourself inside. Do you understand?
Last week Yaxley-Lennon he did indeed turn up at another court, this time in Leeds, and got himself arrested. The trial judge, Geoffrey Marson QC activated the sentence imposed by Her Honour Judge Norton and added a further ten months for the fresh contempt of court.

There is an excellent explanation of the laws involved, why Yaxley-Lennon was sent to prison, and why this does not represent a threat to free speech and British liberties or the imposition of a police state, on the "Secret Barrister" blog here.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Here are my reposes to the Secret Barrister's Blog:

1. Why was Tommy Robinson arrested?

"......West Yorkshire police, having been alerted to his activities, arrested Lennon at the scene."

I'd heard that he was filming from a point agreed with the police: is that not true?!

2. What are reporting restrictions?

"The starting point of our criminal justice system is that justice must be seen to be done."

What were the reasons for his secret trial (is it true it was secret even from his solicitor?!)?!

"However the law provides for exceptions to open justice, known generally as “reporting restrictions”. Reporting restrictions apply in a wide range of situations...…"

I'd read he'd been dragged off to court because he's breached terms of a suspended sentence, so that's not the case?!

".....One breed of restriction order is something called a “postponement order”, under section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Postponement orders are not unusual, particularly where there are a series of linked trials – for example, where allegations of grooming rings involving 30 defendants are concerned, there will be several trials (it not being physically possible to accommodate 30 defendants in a single courtroom). To avoid jurors having their deliberations contaminated by what they might read or hear about the earlier linked trials, reporting of all of them is often postponed until the end."

Is that why the police don't go to extreme lengths to publicise details of the defendants in "Grooming" Gang trials to ensure all possible victims come forward to "corroborate" the existing evidence?!

Unlike in ordinary rape trials?!?!

But, wait, in ordinary rape trials how do the police "avoid jurors having their deliberations contaminated by what they might read or hear about the earlier linked.... reporting of all of them"?!

Does this mean that all people convicted of rape following police (and media?!) publicity should be freed and have their convictions overturned?!

"....On the specific facts of this case, does the public interest in protecting the administration of justice outweigh the strong public interest in open justice?"

But what about reporting on his own case? Surely that could be done with details of the rape trial being redacted?!

"This is what we had here. The judge had imposed a postponement order preventing the media from reporting on the ongoing trial until all linked trials had concluded."
"Breaching a reporting restriction amounts to a contempt of court. Which is what Yaxley-Lennon admitted doing."

Why is this OK (from bbc - news/uk-england-39580591):

".....In all the 29 defendants face a total of more than 170 charges....."

".......They appeared in groups before district Judge Michael Fanning during a lengthy court sitting and are next due to appear at Leeds Crown Court on 11 May....."

Plus a full listing of names, ages and all charges of the 29 defendants!?!?

3. But I heard Tommy Robinson was arrested for a breach of the peace. What is a breach of the peace? How is a breach of the peace caused by someone simply filming?

".....The courts have confirmed that it covers situations where, for example, there are ***reasonable*** grounds to ***fear*** that a demonstrator or protestor is ***likely*** to ***incite*** violence, even violence against themselves. This *appears* to be applicable to the present case. Robinson *provocatively* filming defendants, selected *deliberately* by ethnicity, and streaming on Facebook for the *edification* of his *cult*, is the *kind* of thing which *could*, it *might* be *argued*, lead to a breach of the peace."

Is that the level of legal argument in court these days?!

5. So back up a step – what exactly is contempt of court?

".....The law(s) of contempt are designed to safeguard the fairness of legal proceedings and to maintain the authority and dignity of the court."

No further comment required!

Anonymous said...

Continued....

6. What happened at Canterbury Crown Court?

"On 8 May 2017, during the course of a rape trial at Canterbury Crown Court involving four (***Asian***) defendants, Yaxley-Lennon attended court and attempted to film the defendants for an online broadcast entitled “Tommy Robinson in Canterbury exposing ***Muslim*** child rapists”

So you're saying they weren't British, they were Asian?

And they weren't Muslim, they were Zoroastrian, or Buddhist, or Jewish or that other religion, you know, the Middle Eastern one, that was found in the other half of Iran, the other half of Afghanistan, across North Africa (until something strange happened), it'll come to me!

Yes?! Is that your point?!?!

7. So what you’re saying is that Tommy Robinson was given a suspended sentence simply for trying to report on a case? Free speech is truly dead.

"....This is not theoretical – serious criminal trials have nearly collapsed because of the actions of people like Yaxley-Lennon...."

You mean like Cliff Richard's?!

"We have a quaint tradition in England and Wales that trial by media should be avoided, and that trial on evidence heard in court is the fairest way to determine a person’s guilt."

So why do the police advertise and publicise (non "Asian") rape defendants?

Can you do that with people accused with burglary or GBH?!

Ever been punched by this man or seen him loitering around your house around the time you were burgled (even if you haven't - yet - reported it)?!

"....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."

I take it all the false accusers, including in the police and CPS, in all the recent failed rape cases are being prosecuted for contempt of court as we speak?!

"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.....”

Why is it OK for you to prejudge the entire Asian continent as "Asian" accused rapists when they are MUSLIM gangs?

Especially as the "race" of Asians have a longer history of legal protection than the "religion" of Islam?!

8. How is all that relevant to what took place on 25 May 2018?

".....In short, Mr Yaxley-Lennon, turn up at another court, refer to people as “Muslim paedophiles, Muslim rapists”....."

But did he?!

9. What did he go and do?

"As we know now, he went and committed a contempt of court by reporting on court proceedings. He did so in a way that expressed his “views” on the guilt or otherwise of the defendants"

Again, did he?!


Mr B J Mann.....

Anonymous said...

Continued.....

10. He was tried in secret on the day he was arrested, with no lawyers and the media were banned from reporting what had happened. This is Kafka on steroids, surely?

".......offered a contemnor (for that is the official term) the chance to seek legal advice, can deal with the offender straight away..... Yaxley-Lennon was legally represented by a barrister and would have received full legal advice."

Is it true his own lawyer in London had been told he was being released and he had to rely on one provided by the court?!

"He also wasn’t tried in secret; his contempt hearing was heard in public, with members of the press present. However, the judge imposed temporary reporting restrictions...."

So secret to the country at large!

How many members of the general public, never mind his family, employers, supporters, associates, (own legal team) etc, were in a position to see for themselves the impartiality and lack of prejudice in this non-secret trial?!

"...media circus... orchestrated attempt at martyrdom... deranged followers... far-right" (where do you put Mussolini? Hitler?!)

"...judge agreed that, in light of what had happened over the Bank Holiday weekend, restrictions should be lifted to allow publication of the facts..."

So not the sharpest tool on the bench then!

"....As for the suggestion (by UKIP among others [why bring them up?!]) that nobody has ever before been found in contempt of court and a postponement order made preventing the media from immediately reporting it, a handy example can be found on 22 May 2017, where one Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was found to be in contempt at Canterbury, and a postponement order was made restricting publication until the end of the substantive trial..."

As for your response, so you've given two examples of only Yaxley-Lennon being the subject/victim of that.

And none of any other person.

Handy!

Clearly the guy isn't the nicest of people, and clearly he's been involved in some pretty scummy activities (eg football hooliganism) and some pretty high class ones ("mortgage fraud" - bet there are no policemen, barristers or judges that have inflated their earnings to get a bigger mortgage, or perhaps they don't need to, not least because they aren't likely to be driven out of their homes and need to stump up for something safer and more secure?!).

But equally clearly there have been a lot of politically motivated prosecutions and sentences!

I thought I'd heard good things about the Secret Barrister Blog, but I must be thinking of some other.

"...former leader of the English Defence League, convicted fraudster, sometime-football hooligan.... Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – to use his real name [so that his home and family can be attacked again, and even residents of former homes, again?!]... hordes... storming [you mean like storm-troopers? storm-front, is it?!]... knuckle-dragging cheerleaders... his racists-in-arms... Nazi-themed march... his cult... preaching to his online followers... diatribe... ye of little brain.. tub thumping... people like Yaxley-Lennon... media circus... orchestrated attempt at martyrdom... deranged followers... far-right" [where do you put Mussolini? Hitler?!] "UKIP" [why bring them up?!]

The writer of this prejudiced hit piece seems to epitomise everything wrong with our "justice" system "liberal" establishment!

Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

Dear Mr Mann

I disagree with much of what you appear to be saying but you have obviously spend a lot of time and efforts explaining your concerns, and it is right that what the police and the courts do should be subject to scrutiny.

I'm not at all happy with the say some "celebrity cases" have been reported on by the BBC - who are facing a major lawsuit from Cliff Richard who appears to me to have a case - or in the way some police forces have gone trawling for further witnesses in a manner likely to bring forth liars and fantasists in pursuit of publicity or compensation. But two wrongs do not make a right.

There is no reasonable doubt that Yaxley-Lennon was acting in a way which could have prejudiced the trials concerned. This is unacceptable.

He was given a clear warning in the most specific language that if he did it again, he would go to jail.

He pleaded guilty to a further instance of contempt of court. He went to jail.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Whiteside

Unfortunately the "admission" of guilt raises many more questions than it answers, especially as there has apparently been duress applied in earlier cases (eg claims that he was threatened his wife would be dragged into cases).

Was he denied support from his own legal team?

How long did the court appointed lawyer have to prepare (apparently the case wasn't listed until he was going into court, and he was on his way to prison within 2 or 3 hours of being dragged off the street (supposedly from where the police had told him he could film).

Regardless of the guy's "criminal" history, and much of it seems to have been politically motivated, or his politics, the whole case stinks, especially as there was no way he could actually have influenced the trial in question whatever he'd done or said, and he only read out what was already in the public domain, on the court noticeboard, in the papers, and on the internet, so couldn't have influenced any later related ones.


Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

To the best of my knowledge the judgment of His Honour Judge Geoffrey Marson QC has not yet been published and, as the trial at Leeds is still ongoing, temporary reporting restrictions are still in place on that trial. Hence the full facts are not yet all available which would enable a fair assessment of some of those points.

We do know that Yaxley-Lennon was represented by Matthew Harding, an experienced barrister called to the bar sixteen years ago of whose abilities other lawyers speak highly.

It's my understanding that Yaxley-Lennon's second prosecution for contempt of court was because he said breached the temporary reporting restrictions which were and still are in place on the Leeds trials. This was sufficiently similar to what he had done in Canterbury that it both triggered the suspended sentence and earned an aggravated sentence for the second offence.

After the trial ends all remaining reporting restrictions will be lifted. When this happens and the full decision off HHJ Marson is available it will then be possible to establish whether there is any substance to your concerns.

Anonymous said...

We appear to be going round in circles.

You say the trial is ongoing.

Some of the anti-Robinson/pro Secret Barrister lobby are implying that the gang have been found guilty, and Robinson could have prevented that.

Rumour has it that on the day he was arrested for breach of the peace (which he didn’t appear to have caused or potentially instigated), and “tried” and sentenced for supposed contempt of court and/or breach of suspended sentence conditions (so why wasn’t he arrested for one or both of those, and he doesn’t actually seem to have been guilty of either anyway) the gang were actually being sentenced, meaning the jury had already given their verdict, which in turn means their deliberations could not have been affected by what Robinson had said (and he was only reading what was already published on-line, AND IN THE COURT ITSELF!).

Clearly there are no answers in the claims, assertions and allegations from the Secret Barrister, or from any of his supporters, and any others who object to Robinson’s actions, apparently for personal or political reasons (or, rather, prejudices).

The fact that we are not getting answers is why people are so concerned.

First they came for Tommy Robinson
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Tommy Robinson.

Then they came for Tommy Robinson again
and I did not speak out
because I was not a member of EDL, which he hadn’t been for ages.

Then they came for the Tommy Robinson a third time
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Far-Right Fascist Nazi member of the knuckledragging BNP or NF.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Regards

Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

This is starting to get silly.

There have been several linked trials and one of the problems the system faced from the outset has been making sure than the outcome of one of them does not prejudice the others. That is why there were reporting restrictions in place, breaking which is contempt of court, and this is what Yaxley-Lennon pleaded guilty to.

I've just checked the Crown Court lists for today. Although there are reporting restrictions about what one can publish about these trial proceedings while they are ongoing, there is a list of what trials are currently ongoing which is public domain information.

The current list of trials at Leeds is available to anyone with an internet connection at:

http://www.thelawpages.com/court-hearings-lists/Leeds-Crown-Court.php

I have not written about whether any of the defendants in the trials Yaxley-Lennon was reporting have been convicted, or made any pre-judgement about whether they are guilty. I have not seen anyone else do so either, but if they have they were wrong to do so.

Yaxley-Lennon pleaded guilty to contempt of court and therefore he is either guilty, is the biggest idiot in Britain, or he was deliberately trying to get himself banged up so that he could pose as a martyr.

Or more than one of the above.

I do not agree that the parallel you are trying to draw by applying Pastor Martin Niemöller's words about the victims of the Holocaust to Yaxley-Lennon is valid.

The Nazis came after people not because of anything they had done but because of who they were. Yaxley-Lennon was imprisoned because he admitted breaking the law.

Anonymous said...

Silly?!

I didn't say you had posted anything about the verdicts.

Or anyone else had.

I'd said "he [Robinson/Yaxley-Lennon] was only reading what was already published on-line, AND IN THE COURT ITSELF"

ie the defendants names and charges, with "alleged" interjected.


Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

I was responding to your statement that, quote

"Some of the anti-Robinson/pro Secret Barrister lobby are implying that the gang have been found guilty, and Robinson could have prevented that."


I wanted to make clear that if anyone had done that, they were wrong to do so. Indeed, they would potentially be running into the same dangerous area as Yaxley-Lennon.

Anonymous said...

You might find these guidelines on publication restrictions (not banning, as some think):

Postponement of fair and accurate reports

• Under s.4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 the court *may* postpone publication of a fair, accurate and contemporaneous report of its proceedings where that is *necessary* to avoid a *substantial* risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those or other proceedings

• The power is strictly limited to fair, accurate reports and contemporaneous reports of the proceedings

• The court must be satisfied that a *substantial* risk of prejudice would arise from such reports

• If the concern is potential prejudice to a future trial, in making that judgment, the court *will* bear in mind the tendency for news reports to fade from public consciousness *and* the conscientiousness with which it can normally be expected that the jury in the subsequent case will follow the trial judge’s directions to reach their decision exclusively on the basis of evidence given in that case

• Before making a s.4(2) order, the court *must* be satisfied that the order would eliminate the risk of prejudice and that there is *no* less restrictive measure that could be employed

• If satisfied of these matters, the court *must* exercise its discretion balancing the risk of prejudice to the administration of justice against the strong public interest in the full reporting of criminal trials

*MY emphasis*


Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

All of which seems to me both perfectly reasonable and a description of what the two judges did.

Your point is ?

Anonymous said...

So your point is that eg the two judges did fully comply with the guidelines that tell (OK, "guide") them they:

"*will* bear in mind the tendency for news reports to fade from public consciousness *and* the conscientiousness with which it can normally be expected that the jury in the subsequent case will follow the trial judge’s directions to reach their decision exclusively on the basis of evidence given in that case"

It's clear we've reached the point where we will have to agree to disagree.

Mr B J Mann

Chris Whiteside said...

"Bear in mind" yes, I'm sure they did.

Taking into account a "tendency" for an impact to fade from memory in time doesn't mean assuming it instantly fades away completely.

Most juries undoubtedly will attempt to follow the direction of the judge to make their decision on the basis of the evidence presented in court, but you cannot deliberately forget everything you have heard and it can be quite difficult to completely eliminate the possibility of unconscious bias.

On two occasions in my career in public service, once in the NHS and once as a school governor, I have been in a comparable position myself. In both cases I was on an appeal panel which was accidentally given too much information.

On both occasions we unanimously agreed that the safest way to be sure we had been fair to the employee who was appealing was to disqualify ourselves and for a new appeal panel to be set up. The equivalent action in the case of a Jury trial would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I agree that we will have to agree to disagree.

Chris Whiteside said...

The Appeal court has now quashed his Leeds conviction - though not the Canterbury one - on the grounds that the legal process followed in Leeds was flawed.

So yes, it looks like Mr Mann and others who were concerned about the way the hearing was handled had some valid points - valid enough to convince the Lord Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal to order a fresh hearing and release Yaxley-Lennon on bail pending that new hearing with a fresh Judge.

New report on the appeal decision at

http://chris4copeland.blogspot.com/2018/08/appeal-court-bails-yaxley-lennon.html