British far-right activist jailed for contempt of court
FILE PHOTO: Far right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name Tommy Robinson, speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) - British far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was jailed on Thursday for committing contempt of court after he filmed defendants during a trial last year and posted the footage on social media.
Minor scuffles erupted outside the Old Bailey court in central London when the sentence was announced, as a group of his supporters, shouting “arrest the judge,” clashed with police in riot gear.
Yaxley-Lennon, 36, who goes by the name of Tommy Robinson, was found in contempt last week for breaching a reporting ban by videoing defendants accused of sexually exploiting young girls outside a courthouse in Leeds, northern England, while jurors were still considering their verdicts.
“Today’s sentencing of Yaxley-Lennon serves to illustrate how seriously the courts will take matters of contempt,” said Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, the government’s chief legal adviser
Yaxley-Lennon, who arrived at court wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the message “Convicted of Journalism” with the words “Britain = North Korea” on the back, was arrested in May last year for making the video recordings and jailed for 13 months later that day.
However he successfully appealed against the conviction and was released. Cox decided to re-start contempt proceedings against him leading to the hearings last week where he was convicted.
Judges said he had breached a court order, and his actions, aggressively confronting and filming some of the defendants, had created a substantial risk that “the course of justice in that case would be seriously impeded”.
In her ruling, judge Victoria Sharp said that in his video Yaxley-Lennon, who argued he is highlighting cases ignored by mainstream media, “approves and encourages vigilante action” and his viewers would have understood it as “an incitement to engage in harassment of the defendants”.
He was jailed for six months for the Leeds contempt and a further three months for a previous contempt of court.
Yaxley-Lennon came to public attention as the co-founder of the English Defence League (EDL), a street movement which has staged demonstrations against Islam, and he is now one of Britain’s most high-profile far-right figures.
Britain’s former counter-terrorism police chief cited him as a source of growing far-right extremism and the trial of a man found guilty of ramming a van into Muslim worshippers outside a London mosque in 2017 heard he had researched material in which Yaxley-Lennon featured beforehand.
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