TOMMY Robinson encouraged ‘vigilante action’ against defendants in a criminal trial when he filmed them and broadcast the footage on social media, High Court judges have found.
The former English Defence League (EDL) founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was found to have committed contempt of court at the end of a two-day hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday.
Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Warby found Robinson was in contempt in three respects when he filmed men accused of the sexual exploitation of young girls and live-streamed the footage, in breach of a reporting ban, outside Leeds Crown Court in May 2018.
Giving reasons for the decision on Tuesday, Dame Victoria said that, while Robinson claimed his intention was to ‘denounce the media’ for their behaviour towards him and others, the words he used in the video would have been understood by viewers as ‘an incitement’ to harass the defendants.
In a written ruling, the judge said: ‘In our judgement, those words and the manner of their delivery were an encouragement to others to harass a defendant by finding him, knocking on his door, following him, and watching him, and this gave rise to a real risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded.’
She added: ‘All of this has to be assessed in the context of the video as a whole, in which the respondent approves and encourages vigilante action.
‘We are sure that what the respondent said in this passage will have been understood by a substantial number of viewers as an incitement to engage in harassment of the defendants.’
Dame Victoria said the dangers of using the ‘un-moderated platform’ of social media, with its ‘unparalleled speed and reach’ are obvious and that Robinson's conduct created a risk that the defendants would be intimidated.
She added: ‘In this case, the respondent was engaged in the agitation of members of the public in respect of what he presented as a serious threat to society.
‘His words had a clear tendency to encourage unlawful physical or verbal aggression towards identifiable targets.
‘Harassment of the kind he was describing could not be justified.’