Tommy Robinson was not prosecuted for causing distress to men on trial for grooming

8 August 2019
What was claimed

Tommy Robinson was prosecuted for causing distress to defendants in a grooming trial.

Our verdict

Incorrect. Mr Robinson was prosecuted and found guilty of contempt of court for breaking a reporting ban.

A now-deleted tweet claiming that Tommy Robinson was prosecuted for causing distress to defendants in a grooming trial has been shared on Facebook hundreds of times.

This is not true. Mr Robinson (whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) was sentenced to nine months in prison in July 2019 for breaking a reporting ban on a case involving child grooming in May 2018. He filmed defendants in the trial outside of Leeds Crown Court and live-streamed the footage.

The case had reporting restrictions placed on it to allow a series of linked trials to finish before the publication of any details. This was the second time Mr Robinson has been found guilty of contempt of court.

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What is contempt of court and why does it matter?

UK law says everyone has the right to a fair trial.

A fair trial is one where the jury’s decision is not influenced by anything other than the evidence presented at court.

This means that it is illegal to publish anything that risks prejudicing the jury. Doing so comes under the umbrella term contempt of court, which broadly covers any “interference with the administration of justice”.

Ordinarily there aren’t reporting restrictions on trials, as long as that reporting is “fair, accurate and contemporaneous”. Exceptions to this include cases such as reporting the identities of children or victims of sexual offences. But judges can also impose restrictions for other reasons.

In this case, the trial was the second of three linked trials, all concerning members of the same gang. The judge put reporting restrictions on the second trial, in case any details of the second trial had a risk of influencing jurors in linked trials that were yet to conclude.

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