Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Appeal court bails Yaxley-Lennon pending fresh trial

The Court of Appeal has quashed one of two Contempt of Court convictions against which Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who uses the name Tommy Robinson, was appealing and ordered his release on bail pending a fresh trial. He has subsequently been released from prison.

The Appeal Court upheld Yaxley-Lennon's original conviction for contempt of court, for which he was given a three-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, in respect of a trial at Canterbury Crown Court in 2017.

However, the court also found that Yaxley-Lennon's second conviction for contempt of court in respect of a trial at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year, when his suspended sentence was activated and he was given a further ten-month sentence because the Leeds judge ruled that he had effectively repeated the offence, was based on a "fundamentally flawed" process and they quashed it.

At the Court of Appeal, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and his colleagues ruled there had been technical flaws by the judge who jailed Yaxley-Lennon and quashed the finding.

In his written judgement, the Lord Chief Justice wrote:

"We are satisfied that the finding of contempt made in Leeds following a fundamentally flawed process, in what we recognise were difficult and unusual circumstances, cannot stand. 

"We will direct that the matter be reheard before a different judge." 

Obviously this is an interesting ruling to say the least and will cause quite a lot of legitimate comment. Let's consider the implications.

Question 1) "Does this mean that Yaxley-Lennon has been cleared?" 

Answer: No. His first conviction was upheld: there will be a fresh trial in respect of the alleged second offence.

Question 2) "Is this a victory for free speech?"

Answer: No, it is nothing to do with free speech. It is, however, a victory for due process.

The trial judge in Canterbury, whose judgement has been upheld by the Court of Appeal, explained exactly why it isn't a free speech issue:

Question 3) "But surely the "Free Tommy" crowd have been vindicated that the process was unfair?" 

Answer: In respect of the hearing at Leeds, and that a proper process was not followed in that hearing, then yes, on that one point and on that point alone, those who objected to the decision to jail Yaxley-Lennon have been vindicated.

I am quite certain that this will have a major impact on how "contempt of court" cases will be handled in future. Ironically that may be Yaxley-Lennon's main legacy.

Question 4) "Doesn't this prove that the establishment was out to get Tommy Robinson?"

Answer: Personally I would argue that it proves the exact opposite. In spite of the fact that the legal establishment has excellent reason to distrust Yaxley-Lennon, the Court of Appeal bent over backwards to listen to his legal team's arguments, and when some of those arguments were found to have a sound basis in law the relevant conviction was quashed and he was released on bail pending a re-trial.

Question 5) "What about his treatment in prison?"

Answer:  What about it? He obviously hasn't been murdered by Muslims during his time inside as some of his Islamophobic supporters predicted he would be.

The fact that they managed to simultaneously argue that the British legal system allows Muslims to commit crimes with impunity and no legal sanction, and that there are so many Muslims in all British prisons that it would be impossible to keep Yaxley-Lennon safe while he was inside was cognitive dissonance when he was imprisoned and it remains cognitive dissonance today.

Question 6) "What happens now?"

Answer:  he goes before another hearing with a fresh judge which will consider whether his conduct at Leeds was contempt of court or not.

"The secret barrister" responds to the appeal court decision here.

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