Stephen Lennon, English Defence League Leader, Sentenced But Asbo Rejected
A bid to prevent the leader of the English Defence League (EDL) from organising or attending rallies outside his home borough has been rejected.
The Crown Prosecution Service and Lancashire Constabulary jointly applied for an Asbo (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) against Stephen Lennon which would have effectively barred him from involvement with protests by the far-right group he founded.
However, District Judge Peter Ward refused the application and said he did not believe it would have been submitted but for the defendant's links with the EDL.
The matter was dealt with after Lennon, 28, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was given a 12-week jail term, suspended for 12 months, for assaulting a fellow EDL member at a rally in Blackburn, Lancashire, in April.
The Crown argued that offence and a number of other relevant previous convictions showed he was a man that "needed to be restrained".
In response, Lennon's legal representatives said an Asbo would be "disproportionate" and that it amounted to the police being "desperate to stop him being involved with the EDL at all costs".
Speaking outside Preston Magistrates' Court, Lennon said: "This was an attempt to silence me and take away my democratic rights. I respect the judge for this decision. If the Asbo had been imposed, it would have meant me going to jail. I would have broken it and broken it."
Lennon was warned he would be brought back before the courts if he committed another offence within 12 months. He was convicted of the common assault at an earlier hearing when he was found to have headbutted his victim shortly after speaking at a rally of 2,000 followers in Blackburn.
The Blackburn rally alone, where 13 arrests were made, cost £500,000 out of the Lancashire Police budget. The court heard that Lennon had been in charge of or assisted in the control of 70 such demonstrations nationwide.
Lennon will also be required to perform 150 hours of unpaid work for the assault conviction and pay £200 costs.