Tommy Robinson says he's victim of a 'political witch hunt'

Tommy Robinson says he's victim of a 'political witch hunt'

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson told crowds he was subjected to "mental torture" during his time in prison, as his contempt of court case was sent to the Attorney General.

Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was cheered by his supporters outside the Old Bailey as he emerged on bail.

The 35-year-old was jailed in May for potentially prejudicing a case by broadcasting on social media outside Leeds Crown Court.

He was freed from prison in August after three judges quashed the conviction, because of a flawed prosecution process.


Chants of support

Listen: Tommy Robinson speaks outside the Old Bailey

Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC at the Old Bailey said he was satisfied that "cross-examination of Mr Yaxley-Lennon is necessary for a proper and thorough examination and resolution of the case that is in the public interest" and that therefore the Attorney General must hear it.

Chants of "Oh Tommy Robinson" greeted the defendant as he exited the court building.

He told crowds: "This political witch-hunt must end now."

Robinson added: "I have now come to this court three times. Three times with my bag, ready to go to prison. That's three times I have kissed my children and my wife goodbye. I have been told now that I may be back in court in 4-6 months.  

He also read a statement he had provided on Monday, which persuaded the judge to refer the case rather than decide it himself. 


Robinson's statement

The crowd outside the Old Bailey. Image: PA

"The information I provided was in the public domain, it was factual and relevant but did not provide any details of the trial's proceedings other than what had already been reported previously.

"After my previous experience with contempt of court in Canterbury, I went out of my way to ensure I would not fall foul of the law again. I privately paid for training with one of London's leading law firms to cover all details regarding contempt of court. 

"On that morning at Leeds I had knowledge of the verdict of the first phase of the trial. I knew many of the specific details discussed in court. I did not talk about these in my live stream on that day. I was calm and respectful throughout.

"It is my understanding that no individual in the last 60 years has been sentenced to prison for a publication breach of a reporting order. It would appear that my punishment is exceptional. I would ask that I am treated in the same manner as every other journalist who has been charged with these allegations.

"I was hauled into court immediately, refused my own choice of legal representation, prosecuted and convicted in a matter of minutes in what the Court of Appeal regarded as a flawed trial. I was then imprisoned for over two and a half months in solitary confinement until I won the appeal. I was held against my categorisation, moved to the highest-population Muslim Category C prison in Britain, subjected to mental torture and constant threats of abuse and had all my rights removed in the interests of prison safety.

"It is clear to me that my continued persecution and heavy-handed tactics from the state is because of who I am, rather than what I did.

"I do not accept that reporting facts on the ethnicity or the makeup of a particular offender group could be categorised as contempt of court, given the number of grooming trials and the commentary on those facts that are widely discussed. 

"The prosecution may not like to hear the truth but there is no way that me sharing the truth and facts about a particular religion on social media can lead to prejudice on a trial. The future safety of vulnerable children at risk is my concern here, not the perceived prejudice towards defendants because of their ethnicity or religion."


Why is Robinson a 'hero' to his supporters?

Around a thousand people waved flags and chanted relentlessly in support of a man described on the temporary stage as "our hero, our saviour".

They see Tommy Robinson as standing up for free speech and for being brave enough to raise issues that have become politically taboo. 

If Robinson ends up in jail, or worse, his supporters will feel they have lost and their views on matters concerning immigration and Islam in particular are not only unwelcome anymore, but under fire by the 'system'.

The former EDL leader praised them for their "exemplary" behaviour during the rally. He knows he too is judged by those who follow him.

Analysis: talkRADIO reporter Alex Dibble, at the Old Bailey