NEWS
29/05/2018 19:34 BST | Updated 30/05/2018 12:07 BST

How Tommy Robinson's Misunderstanding Of The Law Gained Him A Global Following

Much ado about nothing.

The founder of the far-right group, the English Defence League, has been jailed for 13 months after being arrested outside Leeds Crown Court last week, court officials have confirmed. 

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, was sentenced to 10 months for contempt of court and a further three months for breaching the terms of a previous suspended sentence.

He was arrested on Friday after using social media to broadcast details of an ongoing trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

The judge who handed down the sentence on Tuesday emphasised how Robinson’s actions could have caused a long-running trial to collapse, wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayer money.

It is the second time he has committed the offence, after previously being told he was on a “knife edge” when he was sentenced in May 2017 for trying to film four men accused of gang-raping a teenage girl who were standing trial.

Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said: “Not only was it a very long video, but I regard it as a serious aggravating feature that he was encouraging others to share it and it had been shared widely.

“That is the nature of the contempt.

“He referred to the charges that the defendants faced and some charges which are not proceeded against in relation to some defendants.”

Robinson’s predicament was summed up by Leeds Live reporter, Stephanie Finnegan, who wrote on Twitter: “Moral of the story: if you want to stay out of jail, don’t go ONLINE and discuss or publish details of a court case that hasn’t been reported in the media - leave it to the PROFESSIONALS. Either that, or enroll in a #medialaw101 class and join the ranks.”

 

But as British newspapers remained largely silent on the issue due to reporting restrictions, the episode has highlighted Robinson’s growing popularity outside Britain.

Despite being largely shunned in the UK, he has become a cause célèbre among prominent European and American figures on the far-right, all of whom have backed him in recent days claiming his right to freedom of speech was breached.

The Dutch Party for Freedom leader, Geert Wilders, protested about the incident outside the British Embassy in The Hague on Monday.

Roseanne Barr, who on Tuesday “left Twitter” after apologising for a racist tweet about American attorney, Valerie Jarrett, has tweeted the #FreeTommyRobinson hashtag on a number of occasions. 

Barr is also an avid Trump supporter and is an advocate of a wide range of conspiracy theories.

Lauren Southern, best known for her role in last year’s Defend Europe stunt to disrupt migrant rescues in the Mediterranean, is also an avid supporter. 

The Infowars host and Conspiracy Theorist-in-Chief, Alex Jones, has also produced a number of reports relating to Tommy Robinson.

Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Alex Jones.

Martin Sellner, the Austrian leader of Identitäre Bewegung Österreichs, who was denied entry to the UK last month, also campaigned for Robinson.

Alt-right blog site Zerohedge, accused by some of being a Russian propaganda outlet, has also been up in arms.

The reporting restrictions that were initially placed on Robinson’s sentence were lifted following a legal challenge on Tuesday.

Following his arrest his supporters protested outside the gates of Downing Street, while others took to social media where they were supported by right-wing sympathisers in the US.