A busman’s holiday at the Tommy Robinson Appeal

Barristerblogger had a day in Town on Wednesday; coinciding with both the Cliff Richard judgment and the Tommy Robinson appeal.

A New Attorney-General

While the Cliff Richard judgment was being delivered, a little down the corridor in the Lord Chief Justice’s court a new Attorney-General was being sworn-in before a bench full of colourfully be-robed (and in the LCJ’s case be-chained) judges in their splendidly absurd full-bottomed wigs. Down in counsels’ row the new Attorney-General too was full-bottomed. Someone in the court clerk’s usual seat even had an extraordinary black tricorn contraption which she seemed to have some difficulty balancing on her own full-bottom wig – I have since learnt that she was the Queen’s Remembrancer.

Who, though, was that nice but ordinary-looking man squeezed in at the end of the judges’ bench? Nobody seemed to know, but eventually it turned out he was David Gauke, the Lord High Chancellor of England. He had acquired a yellow and black robe from somewhere, but no wig, so amongst all the bigwigs he looked like a man in a lounge suit at a white tie dinner. He gave a short but sensible speech, leavened with the sort of bland humour that is expected on these occasions.

Pushing and shoving for the best seats

Whilst this solemn ceremony was going on, there was a great deal of polite pushing and shoving in the stalls as members of the public, Barristerblogger included, manoeuvred to grab the better seats in the house. For a time, it was standing room only and as the encomiums to the new Attorney-General continued to flow from the bench, who should slip to the front of the queue, face down in his twitter notifications, but Tommy Robinson’s greatest supporter, PR Svengali and chief fund-raiser, flown over from Canada at Tommy’s special request, none other than Rebel Media’s Ezra Levant.

Fortunately the pushing and shoving proved to be unnecessary. The Attorney-General was safely sworn in. The bigwigs and the no-wig filed off the bench and the Attorney-General’s entourage melted away to be replaced by Tommy Robinson’s supporters and various journalists. I found a seat just in front of a man with a chestful of glittering medals and we sat and waited for the main event. Apparently over on the other side of the courtroom (huge by the standards of most courts) there was some sort of disturbance with supporters being ushered out, but if so it was a fairly genteel ejection which I didn’t notice.

The ceremony of the video link

Before long a video link was established to HMP Onley, and the man himself became visible, although not immediately audible. The Queen’s Remembrancer in the clerk’s seat had been replaced by soemone more conventionally dressed, a clerk in fact, although by way of compensation for the lack of a tricorn he did have a beautiful French accent. He perfected the audio link and exchanged a little badinage with the appellant. As far as one could see Robinson looked well, and he seemed cheerful and relaxed as the usual unsuccessful attempts were made to improve the quality of the picture.

The lawyers appear

Robinson’s legal team was the first into court. 25 Bedford Row’s Jeremy Dein QC, followed by his junior Kerrie Rowan. According to his chambers website Mr Dein has a

special interest in Appellate work, bringing unrivalled analytical skills, commitment, dedication and thoroughness to the prospect of finding potential new avenues of successful appeal. Fearless in his approach, relentless in pursuit of the desired result.”

There had previously been some confusion over when the appeal was going to be heard. Originally. According to Rebel Media’s money-raising page it had originally been listed for 10th July. Then, on 3rd July it was apparently given another date. It had been a cue for Rebel Media, and especially Ezra Levant, to go into hyper-ventilation mode:

Moments ago I received a shocking message from Tommy Robinson’s family.

Tommy’s legal appeal, scheduled for next week in London’s Royal Courts of Justice, has been cancelled.

The excuse? The government’s lawyers say they’re not ready.

That’s a damnable lie, of course.

Tommy has been languishing in prison since May 25th. The Crown Prosecution Service — what could be called the UK’s largest law firm — has had a month and a half to prepare. They have every legal expert at their disposal. They have unlimited resources.

But they simply want Tommy to rot in jail longer.”

Everyone in court was now waiting for the appearance of the CPS team. After telling lies to ensure that Tommy rots in jail for as long as possible, we could only speculate as to what their next trick would be.

The Amicus Appears

Eventually a single QC – no junior counsel – came into court carrying a small ring-binder and sat on the Respondent’s side of the court. It seemed odd that the “UK’s largest law firm” had decided not to accompany their silk to court, or even to instruct a junior. Perhaps they were running scared of Tommy’s army, preferring to manipulate the result of the appeal by exerting improper influence on the list office. Would they pull a last minute trick by pretending not to be ready?

However, it turned out that the single barrister was not actually anything to do with the CPS at all. In fact the CPS had had nothing to do with the appeal. Louis Mably QC, was what used to be called an amicus curiae and is now known as an “advocate to the court.” He was appointed, he told me, but not instructed, by the Attorney-General, not the CPS. His role was not to support or oppose the appeal but to assist the court with the law from a position of complete independence. According to the Legal 500 he is “fantastically bright” and “completely unpretentious,” and that seems a fair assessment.

The fact that the CPS weren’t actually opposing the appeal, in fact weren’t actually involved in any way, seems rather to deflate Mr Levant’s assertion that they had told damanable lies to ensure that Tommy would rot longer in jail.

The Judges reappear

The judges themselves filed back into court. Gone were the colourful robes and full-bottomed wigs. All three – Burnett LCJ, Mr Justice Turner J & Mrs Justice McGowan – were now dressed identically in plain black, and wearing just their short “working” wigs.

An irrelevant digression

The Lord Chief Justice was in genial mood. The last time I saw him he was the second junior at the Kings Cross inquiry where I had been another junior barrister. I was reminded of the Eighteenth century poet William Cowper who, while reading for the bar, shared lodgings with another student called Edward Thurlow. One day the pair were drinking tea in Bloomsbury (Thurlow normally preferred a coffee shop called Nando’s in Fleet Street). Cowper, who recognised his limitations as a lawyer, said to Thurlow:

“Thurlow, I am nobody, and shall always be nobody, and you will be Lord Chancellor. You shall provide for me when you are!”

Thurlow smiled and replied:

“I surely will.”

The prediction came partly true. Cowper was a hopeless barrister, bored by the law and terrified of public speaking. As a result he never received a single brief. He suffered a mental collapse and had to recover in an asylum. He did eventually become a popular (though never wealthy) poet but for many years he lived in obscurity in “the least reputable quarter” of the Buckinghamshire town of Olney. At the time it was a miserable rural backwater where he had to put up with the “screaming of children … engaged in a sport which they called hockey, but which consisted essentially in bespattering each other and the windows of the houses with mud, … putrid exhalations [and] the fishy fumes of marsh miasma….” Cowper consoled himself with his pet hares which he fed on thistles and sliced carrots.

Thurlow, meanwhile, prospered at the bar, survived a duel and in due course did indeed become Lord Chancellor, just as Cowper had predicted. He was a nasty piece of work, as anyone might have guessed from the fact that his favourite boyhood sport was “cock-throwing” a singularly unpleasant amusement in which a cock is tied to a post and participants then take turns throwing sticks at it until it dies.

Unsurprisingly he never honoured his promise to his former friend, and appears to have been “as unamiable in his private life as he was rash, domineering and headstrong in public affairs.” It is not known whether he carried on cock-throwing after his elevation to the woolsack.

The Appeal Begins

Where was I?

Oh yes.

The current Lord Chief Justice could hardly be less like Thurlow. He is neither rash nor domineering nor headstrong.

He politely reminded the public gallery of the reporting restrictions that remain in place and of the need for decorum in court. On the other hand reporting of the appeal proceedings was fine, and he went out of his way to encourage tweeting.

Most of the rest of the morning was taken up with Mr Dein’s submissions.

Everything is being appealed

The biggest surprise was that Robinson – contrary to every indication given by Rebel Media – was indeed challenging the actual findings of contempt; and not just Leeds in May 2018 but also Canterbury in May 2017.

Appeals normally need to be lodged within 28 days, although the court does have a discretion to extend the time limit, even after it has expired.

Robinson was “out of time” with both appeals: as the Lord Chief Justice observed, one year and twenty three days late with the Canterbury appeal and 20 days late with the Leeds appeal. Dein set out a timetable to explain his involvement, to explain why the court should extend the time limits. He seemed on much stronger ground with the Leeds case than the Canterbury one.

His explanation for the delay, and it seemed very plausible, was that he had struggled to get all the information and instructions he needed to draft the grounds of appeal. There had been difficulties getting a transcript and arranging conferences, and the conference he did have in Onley prison had only lasted 55 minutes (although how essential it was to have a longer conference may be open to question; had Mr Robinson been on legal aid it is doubtful that the junior barrister assigned to his case would have been paid for any conference at all).

Amidst a flurry of dates it turned out that the Grounds of Appeal had not actually been submitted until 12th July.

This revelation puts something of a gloss on Rebel Media’s assertion that the the Crown Prosecution Service had had “one and a half months to prepare for the appeal,” before asking for it to be adjourned on 3rd July. Not only were the CPS not involved at all; even if they had been they could not possibly have prepared for an appeal without knowing what his grounds were. The gloss is that what Rebel Media said was untrue.

In fact, for Robinson to have had his appeal heard less than a week after the filing of out of time grounds of appeal is astonishingly quick. Most appellants have to wait months.

A conglomeration of procedural deficiencies”

Having got the preliminary point about the delay out of the way, Mr Dein then got stuck in to the meat of his argument. He made it clear that he was not disputing that at least some of the material on Mr Robinson’s live-streamed video was a contempt of court, since it disclosed details about an ongoing trial, in breach of a court order forbidding any such disclosure.

Instead, his main argument was that a “conglomeration of procedural deficiencies” meant the contempt findings should be set aside. Even though Robinson admitted he was in contempt, and even though he obviously was in contempt, the Criminal Procedure Rules had not been properly complied with. The precise nature of the contempt wasn’t spelt out in Leeds and there was no compelling need for the case to be dealt with so quickly. He may have been guilty, but both his common law rights and those under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights were breached.

For those interested in the technicalities they are these:

The Criminal Procedure Rules (R.48.5.2) require that where contempt is alleged the judge should:

(a) explain, in terms the respondent can understand (with help, if necessary)—

(i) the conduct that is in question,

(ii) that the court can impose imprisonment, or a fine, or both, for such conduct,

(iii) (where relevant) that the court has power to order the respondent’s immediate temporary detention, if in the court’s opinion that is required,

(iv) that the respondent may explain the conduct,

(v) that the respondent may apologise, if he or she so wishes, and that this may persuade the court to take no further action, and

(vi) that the respondent may take legal advice; and

(b) allow the respondent a reasonable opportunity to reflect, take advice, explain and, if he or she so wishes, apologise.

The judge then has a choice: if necessary he or she can “enquire into the conduct there and then” (in the jargon “summarily”); or postpone the enquiry until some later date, when a more formal procedure is adopted, involving the service of a written statement setting out in detail what the contempt is said to be.

In Robinson’s case, argued Dein, even though he had the benefit of legal advice, not all these provisions were observed; for example he wasn’t told precisely why his conduct was contemptuous. Furthermore, he said, there was no necessity for the matter to be dealt with there and then. It should have been adjourned to a later date.

Mrs Justice McGowan suggested that there might indeed have been a need to deal with Robinson summarily; the jury deliberations in the trial about which Robinson was commentating, had been suspended while the judge tried to sort out both how to deal with Robinson, as well as any possible ramifications that his behaviour might have for the trial itself.

Conflicting case-law

Dein relied principally on the case of West [2014] EWCA Crim 1480 in which a barrister (who may be known to some readers as the popular tweeter @ianswest) was fined £500 for contempt by a Crown Court judge after ignoring the judge’s – rather tiresome – request that he return to court at 14.00. The order was quashed because, even though Mr West had very honourably declined to take the point even when it was suggested to him, the Court of Appeal found that there had not been strict provision with the rules. As Leveson LJ put it:

In the normal course, compliance with the strict provisions of the CPR can be waived by the parties or the court; in cases of alleged contempt, however, we have no doubt that strict observance of the provisions is essential.”

The Lord Chief Justice pointed out that West had been decided without considering an earlier case also mentioned by Dein, Nicholls v. Nicholls [1997] 1 WLR 314], where the Court of Appeal had said:

As long as the contemnor had a fair trial and the order has been made on valid grounds the existence of a defect either in the application to commit or in the committal order served will not result in the order being set aside except insofar as the interests of justice require this to be done.

[The] interests of justice will not require an order to be set aside where there is no prejudice caused as a result of errors in the application to commit or in the order to commit. When necessary the order can be amended.

Although the Court of Appeal is normally required to follow its own precedents, there are exceptions: sometimes there are conflicting precedents and the Court has to decide which to follow; or a seemingly authoritative case may be undermined if it was itself decided without consideration of some earlier relevant authority.

A criminal or a civil prisoner?

Dein then raised a highly technical point: the wording of the order committing Robinson to prison described him as a convicted prisoner (in shorthand a “criminal prisoner”) rather than a person committed to prison for contempt (a “civil prisoner”). In practice a civil prisoner is treated rather like a remand prisoner. The judges seemed to think that that issue could be “tidied up” without quashing the order.

Dein was pressed on the Canterbury contempt, and in answer to a question from the Lord Chief Justice conceded that “in broad terms what happened in Canterbury was fair.”

Appeal against sentence

He then moved on to the appeal against the 13 month sentence (the suspended 3 months from Canterbury plus 10 months from Leeds) which he argued was “manifestly excessive.” He deftly avoided direct criticism of Matthew Harding, the experienced barrister Robinson was given in Leeds, by saying that his failure to make some of the points he was about to make was because the Judge had rushed the case.

An alternative explanation might be that some of the points he was about to make were not very good ones which Mr Harding sensibly left well alone.

First, he said, Robinson had shown the “maximum co-operation” by offering to have his live-stream taken down immediately. This has perhaps not made much difference in practice, since the video received huge publicity at the time and has been widely copied and available online since.

Secondly, he had not “intended to breach the order,” his contempt arose out of “naivete rather than any determined attempt to breach the reporting restriction.”

Thirdly, he was attempting to “operate as a journalist.” In support of this submission he pointed to the previously unpublicised fact that in June 2017 not only Robinson but other members of Rebel Media, had attended a training session in media law run by the law firm Kingsley Napley. It doesn’t seem to have been very effective.

Some unconvincing submissions

Like many good advocates, Dein left his worst points till last.

He relied on the fact that Mr Robinson had joined the Quilliam Foundation, an “anti-extremist think tank.” That indeed was half true. What he did not go on to say was that their relationship had since soured, and Quilliam now regards him as an unpleasant extremist. According to Quilliam, in May 2017:

Quilliam was victim to extremist Tommy Robinson and alt-right Rebel media’s George Llewelyn-John trespassing in our office using aggressive and bullying behaviour today, after they barged in to our London address, verbally harassing and physically intimidating our staff.

Tommy proceeded to abuse and bully junior staff, failing to leave the premises when asked, eventually being escorted off-site by the police. Having arrived with a cameraman from the alt-right Rebel Media, George Llewelyn-John, they hounded Quilliam staff and repeatedly refused to have a reasoned discussion.

we think it unfortunate that, following our efforts to engage with Tommy Robinson and help him move away from extremism, he seems to have regressed.”

Butterflies”

Mr Dein dealt with the conditions under which Robinson was being held in prison. Quite how much these were down to Robinson’s personal choice was not entirely clear. However, the conditions were, said Mr Dein, “unacceptable.” He was, in effect, being kept in solitary confinement with only 30 minutes yard time a day and unable to work. There was no “rehabilitative aspect” to his sentence. Apparently Robinson cannot even go to church, although he acknowledged that he was not a particularly religious man. Mrs Justice McGowan did not seem impressed:

These are complaints for the prison authorities.”

He also complained that when Robinson was last imprisoned, in 2013, this had had a “significant psychological impact” on him. He had been unable to sleep and had had “butterflies in his stomach.” The Lord Chief Justice gave no indication that he was bovvered by that particular submission.

What troubled the LCJ

What did seem to trouble him was that in passing sentence (the transcript has not been made public) the Leeds judge had referred to matters which were not breaches of the reporting restriction, the implication being that these were not necessarily contempts of court.

The Amicus Replies

Mr Mably QC accepted that that might have been a problem, while suggesting, perhaps a little hesitantly, that matters which were not themselves contempts of court could still be regarded as “aggravating features.”

The fundamental point that he made, in a much shorter address, was that it must have been perfectly obvious to everyone in court what the contempt was – the breach of the reporting restrictions – and that even if some aspects of the Criminal Procedure Rules were not properly applied, no injustice had in fact occurred.

He made no submissions at all on the length of the sentence. Perhaps he took the view that as an independent advocate his job was to deal with the law rather than with the length of sentence.

The Lord Chief Justice indicated that the Court would give judgment by the end of this month, if at all possible.

No Bail Application

There was no application for bail, another surprise since for weeks Rebel Media had been promising that there would be.

 

 

 

Liked it? Take a second to support Matthew on Patreon!

Author: Matthew

I have been a barrister for over 25 years, specialising in crime. You may also have come across some of my articles I have written on legal issues for The Times, Standpoint, Daily Telegraph or Criminal Law & Justice Weekly

54 thoughts on “A busman’s holiday at the Tommy Robinson Appeal”

  1. As previously pointed out, only barristers appointed to the post of Lord Chancellor are entitled be be be-wigged. So the first “new style” Lord Chancellor, Charlie Falconer, his successor Jack Straw (the first commoner to hold the office), the delightful but ultimately disappointing Ken Clarke etc. were all entitled to the full dignity of one of the “great offices of state”. Others, including some who were less or even totally unqualified for the post appeared bare-headed, including the gormless and terrifyingly gung-ho Grayling; the ideologically driven Michael Gove, who was so sadly dismissive of expert opinion and every notion of evidence-driven decision making that his genuine desire to make positive changes was largely undone at the first hurdle; Liz Truss, who cravenly betrayed her oath of office, and so damagingly undermined the perception of the separation of powers and the constitutional defence of the independence of the judiciary; and David Lidington, who was simply in over his essentially well-meaning but rather empty head, were denied the distinction of the wig, despite throwing historic hissy fits (in two of the aforementioned cases – no prizes for guessing which ones!). David Gauke has restored some of the lost dignity to the office, and a great deal of the necessary competence. And he did make it quite clear from the very outset that he wasn’t seeking to don a wig.

  2. As ever, superbly presented – a mixture of mirth and a surgical and encyclopedic knowledge of the law. I enjoyed every sentence from start to finish. Thank you.

    1. Would it have been so mirthful if this had been an unjustly imprisoned and suffering political prisoner of whose cause the barrister approved?

    1. Yeah, the reason being that reporting restrictions are still in place, probably because that or linked trials are still ongoing!

    2. Could those valid reasons be that the judge who imposed the reporting restriction assumed, as per guidelines, that the future jurors will forget?

      Oops, no, can’t be that!

      Perhaps, because he assumed, as he was supposed to, that the future jury would follow the future judge’s directions and forget everything they heard outside of court?!

      Nope, he seems to have forgotten that to!

      Something to do with significant and serious risks of prejudice?!

      Er, no, that doesn’t seem to be something the judge gave any real consideration to, never mind alternative ways of achieving his aims (well, not as far s ny reported evidence indicates!)!

      Oh, I know, it’s because the main way of ensuring fair trials is through widespread and immediate reporting?!

      Oh, I give in, go on, tell us the answer!

  3. It is a pity that the second, Leeds, judgment (sentencing remarks?) is not available. In a miasma of accusations such as this case attracts it would be helpful to have something definitive to base argument on. Of course I accept that there may be good reason for it.But I think the court could have explained for the benefit of the defendant’s rather agitated supporters (if they want to hear) the reason for the judgment’s not being available to read now.

    While writing may I politely thank Matthew Scott for all his work on this blog. As a mere technology lawyer I think it is a must read and I urge everyone to support it via Patreon.

    1. That’s extremely kind of you Harry.

      It’s possible that we may learn a little more of the factual background in the judgment. My reference to “ramifications” for the trial” might, for example, be more fully explained.

    2. Perhaps someone was afraid that that would be counter-productive, as with the Canterbury transcript demonstrating Robinson followed the Canterbury judges instructions to the letter at Leeds.

      Not that that seems to have done him any good.

      Seems to be a pattern emerging here:

      Follow court officials’ instructions get done.

      Follow police instructions get done.

      Follow judge’s instructions get done.

      Don’t do anything, get thrown out of town by the police.

      Don’t do anything, get police on your case with a fine tooth comb until they find you doing something policemen, barristers, judges and MPS do all the time, inflating their income and/or misrepresenting their savings to gain a bigger mortgage, and get banged up.

      Unlike policemen, barristers, judges and MPS.

      Anyone would think the policemen, barristers, judges and MP were out to get him!

      Fortunately I’m not a conspiracy theorist so I’d never jump to conclusions on such ridiculous evidence.

      Otherwise I’d be thinking he was a far right extremist who has only been prevented from storming to power and setting up the IVth Reich in the UK by the fact he’d working class and doesn’t have a degree (OK he’s a football supporter but he’s WORKING CLASS

      AND HE DOESN’T HAVE A DEGREE!!!)

      After all, it’s not like he’s been dragged through the UK courts for disrespecting the flag of a foreign country, sorry, been dragged through the UK courts for disrespecting the flag of a banned terrorist organisation IN a foreign country!

      Or even as if he’s been dragged through the UK courts for using the wrong passport to enter a foreign country!!

      I mean, we seem to practically invite illegals, including Jihadis and terrorists, to do that in THIS country.

      And even reward them with London Mansions and unlimited (as long as they pretend to “work” for 16 hours a week for a council, Quango or NGO) funds to repatriate to their fellow Jihadis (as if we don’t send them enough money direct from the government as it is!)!

      Oh, wait a minute!!!

  4. What exactly was the basis of Robinson’s contempt of court? The LCJ touched upon this as he mentioned that discussing the cost of the trial should probably not be viewed as contempt of court.
    I was surprised Dein didn’t challenge the substance of the contempt as that seems subjective and he could have argued for the low severity of the various breaches.

    Perhaps there was a list the public did not have access to, but that seems strange as the public ought to know the boundary of what’s lawful.

    Does live streaming himself outside of the court building constitute contempt of court? The court building? The defendants? Non-defendants?

    What did Robinson say which was in contempt of court? Reading publicly available information from e.g. BBC? “bringing your prison bag with you” could be argued to be prejudicial, but the severity is debatable. Exactly which comments builds the case?

    Is the problem that the defendants are interfered as they enter the building, or that the defendants may viewing the report afterwards, or is the concern only whether the jurors would view the reporting afterwards?

    1. The unarguably contemptuous behaviour was to breach the reporting restrictions. In my view his shouting & goading the defendants as they arrived, & broadcasting himself doing so was disgraceful & also contemptuous, but it wasn’t as clear cut.

      1. “The unarguably contemptuous behaviour was to breach the reporting restrictions. … & broadcasting himself doing so was disgraceful & also contemptuous…”

        This also applies to the elderly gentleman from the Sikh Awareness Society. Why no arrest or prosecution? Probably because it wouldn’t have looked very good on camera.

        1. Liza

          “This also applies to the elderly gentleman from the Sikh Awareness Society. Why no arrest or prosecution?”

          You mean their YouTube video from the 2017 pre-trial hearings? The one before the postponement order was in place…..

      2. Is that the current state of the UK “justice’ system?

        He’s unarguably guilty so we’ll send him down without the inconvenience of making a case?!

        Is that why the courts are so fond of reporting restrictions these days?!!

      3. Is the ‘shouting & goading’ only contemptuous because of the reporting restrictions in the linked cases at Leeds or is that your opinion of the common behaviour of the media outside courts (Rolf Harris and Max Clifford for instance)? The typical scrum seems mainly to be for the benefit of the media outlets. Thank you for this report. I was there out of curiosity and an interest in justice but as a layman struggled to make sense of what was going on. I found the lack of showiness by all those involved very reassuring.

      4. Very interesting getting the facts rather than gossip.

        Matthew how long would you have sent Tommy away for if you were sentencing..? I’ll admit I have a lot of time for him but he did commit contempt so I agree he should get some time but I think a year is ridiculous – wouldn’t a month or two serve as a proper shock to not do it again..?

        What do you think it does to public perception when people know that hideous abuse of young girls went on for years unchecked but someone complaining about it has been swiftly locked up..?

        Of course the public can be terribly informed – as in this case – but don’t these kinds of incidents give fuel for e.g. Brexit..?

        signed: left-wing remainer

      5. Robinson mentioned the defendants names and charges, and description of how the trial was broken up into parts. All of this was published a year ago by BBC, Sun, Daily Mail, Examiner, Manchester Evening News, Yorkshire Post, and many other news outlets, and those articles are still in the public domain. Surely reading something which has been and is still being served by that many sources, and which surely was legal last year, cannot constitute breach of reporting restrictions.

        Correct me if I’m missing something, but while Robinson spoke about lots of things during the live stream, and apart from the public information discussed above, he only spoke about things directly related to the case in the following instances:
        1. what triggered the initial police investigation (1 sentence),
        2. what type of work one anonymous defendant has (a few sentences),
        3. the cost of the trial, which I’m guessing is what the LCJ mentioned during the appeal – that it was probably not contempt.
        4. Asking questions to the defendants as they arrive. The following are all questions he asked, although some were asked multiple times: “How are you feeling about your verdict?”, “Got your prison bag with you?” (defendant carries a bag), “Is there any guilt?”, “how are you’re doing” “my wife’s a prostitute?” (answering), “How you doing mate?”, “What are you in court for today if you don’t mind me asking?”, and “You’ve been seeing my mum?” (answering).
        5. Affirming the legality of his live stream with his colleagues.

        In summary, Robinson did not report any information directly related to the trial that were not already known and published by most news outlets a year before the reporting restriction were put in place. The possible exceptions are (1) and (2), although they seem innocuous.

        With a maximum penalty of 2 years for contempt of court,(?) and the main charge being breach of reporting restrictions, 10 months therefore seems excessive. As a layman, I fail to see why the above should put anyone in prison. Sure there may be additional aggravating features, but the substance seems weak.

    2. Very good questions.Basis for contempt of court may be re-phrased, what are the reporting restrictions, where do they lie?
      This is not answered by Mathew below with “The unarguably contemptuous behaviour was to breach the reporting restrictions.”

    3. It would be interesting, too, to read a mirthful and mocking account of how Brian Leveson came to be replaced for this hearing, after his appearance on radio 4. The lower orders might be interested to know why he isn’t in prison, pour encourager les autres, but then Brenda Hale set the standard for contemporary lawyers in Malaysia, and was nobly rewarded for it.

  5. Please explain, Mr Scott, why livestreaming and livetweeting from this hearing are not considered contempt? I appreciate that the lawyers involved regard this as a thoroughly amusing jape, but how do they think it looks to the lower orders? Justice being seen to be done and all that.

      1. How come there was no restriction on the appeal and that tweeting was fine, when the restrictions still haven’t been lifted in Leeds? We had been given to understand that the two sets of cases were inextricably linked, and therefore total secrecy was essential, including about the imprisonment.

        It looks as if the original judge used ruthless injustice and totalitarian secrecy, and when those backfired spectacularly, the second judge decided humour and ridicule would be deployed instead.

        Wouldn’t it be good if we could get back to the standards we had before Blair politicised our institutions? When lawyers were impartial and dignified, correct and professional, no matter what they had to deal with, and didn’t bring us into international disrepute?

      2. The lawyers may well have technicalities on their side, but the fact remains they sent a man to prison for 13 months for livestreaming outside a court and a judge has now authorised livestreaming and livetweeting inside a court, which the lawyers regard as frightfully funny.

  6. Is this the kind o thing that got the Mail and Mirror, was it, into trouble, the jury dismissed, the trail abandoned, and all further charges against Levi Bellfield dropped, in the Milly Dowler case?!

    “Quilliam was victim to extremist Tommy Robinson and alt-right Rebel media’s George Llewelyn-John trespassing in our office using aggressive and bullying behaviour today, after they barged in to our London address, verbally harassing and physically intimidating our staff.

    Tommy proceeded to abuse and bully junior staff, failing to leave the premises when asked, eventually being escorted off-site by the police. Having arrived with a cameraman from the alt-right Rebel Media, George Llewelyn-John, they hounded Quilliam staff and repeatedly refused to have a reasoned discussion.

    … we think it unfortunate that, following our efforts to engage with Tommy Robinson and help him move away from extremism, he seems to have regressed.”

    1. Quilliam smeared Tommy via an uncredited Guardian article. He went to the office to confront them. Entirely justified – he just stood there asking questions.

      It was a deliberate smear by the Guardian and Quilliam I followed it all.

      The Guardian are awful at times – remember they tried to rubbish Corbyn.

      1. I’ve no idea what the Guardian said about it, I was quoting Quilliam. The point is simply that it was very strange mitigation to say that TR has worked with Quilliam, without mentioning that they have fallen out.

        And the Guardian probably rubbished Corbyn because he is rubbish, though they still print lots of pro-Corbyn stuff anyway.

        1. OK got you.

          My point was really about the mischaracterisation of people. Tommy – regardless of ones opinion of him – is relentlessly misrepresented. Its just as bad as the loony right wing ‘send them all back’ brigade.

          Left leaning progressive types ‘have’ to hate Tommy regardless of what he says or does. Its bad news. Its ideologically driven.

  7. Whatever you think of “Tommy Robinson” and the trial (I have mixed feelings on both,) the fact remains that Muslim inmates smashed all his teeth out while he was in prison, and he quite plausibly claims that on other occasions substantial efforts were made to murder him, and that until he became a celebrity of sorts prison authorities were less than energetic in assuring his safety.

    Having your teeth smashed out is not part of any sentence, and I am deeply disappointed than an officer of the court, on a blog no less, would make jokes (“bovvered”) about people bound for prison referring to clear and appalling abuses they had suffered whilst in prison.

    1. Steven, so you have a link for some more information on Robinson having his teeth smashed out? I believe that he has lodged a complaint about his treatment in jail, including not being allowed a TV, but he makes no mention of any physical assault, and a Google search hasn’t turned up anything.

        1. It was a few years ago Amanda. I think he has been badly mistreated this time. For a start sentenced as a criminal rather than civil prisoner. I think he may get more time when re-tried but I also think there will be repercussions regarding his treatment this year. It was a shocking miscarriage.

  8. I was intrigued by the reference to the press statement from Quilliam (‘Some unconvincing submissions / According to Quilliam’). It took a few seconds (Tommy Robinson Quilliam) to find this recording of the incident that gives an interesting alternative view on the article in the Guardian and Quilliam’s spin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFkCzwW3n3Q

    1. They definitely smeared Tommy and were sneaky about it. The Guardian has that streak of being OK with smearing/lying about people if they believe the people are bad actors. Like him or not Tommy has been relentlessly lied about.

  9. From what I understand the LCJ also questioned whether the reporting restrictions imposed on the underlying linked trials were too broad.

    “Open justice is a hallmark of the rule of law” is the opening remark of then Lord Chief Justice Cwmgiedd, in his reporting restrictions guide Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts from 2016. On discretionary reporting restrictions it states that “… the terms of the proposed order go no further than is necessary to meet the statutory objective.”

    Therefore, banning ALL reporting on the linked trials, including information typically available to the public in criminal trials and that had been available for a year prior to the restriction ban, primarily names and charges of the defendants, but also pictures and the partitioning of the trial with their rough start dates, should not be restricted.

    The guide also says that “Any reporting restriction imposes potential criminal liability on media organisations, journalists or editors who breach it. If a breach occurs, media organisations and their employees may face unlimited fines”. I note the omission of prison sentencing, although that may have been an unintentional omission. But it suggests breach of reporting restrictions should typically incur fines on the media, not prison sentences.

    Continuing, since there is this a risk of liability for the media, the guide requires that “any reporting restriction should be reduced to writing as soon as possible, clear and precise in its terms and drawn up as a court order as soon as practicable. Once orders have been made, they should be drawn to the attention of the media by being shown on the court list and on the door of the court and wherever possible sent to relevant local and/or national media organisations. Court staff should respond positively to media organisations’ requests for assistance in relation to the existence or terms of reporting restriction orders”

    The court and its staff has a responsibility to make reporting restrictions clear and precise, and make such order available to the media, possibly proactively.

    Throughout his live stream, Robinson was always conscious of staying on the right side of the law, knowing he had a suspended sentence hanging over him, asking police officers for guidance, having taken judicial lessons for journalists, conscious about abiding by the Canterbury ruling (not filming inside court building or on the steps of the court, nor use prejudicial language when referring to defendants), knowing “the police would get him” if he would make a simple mistake, and so on.

    So on the one hand, Robinson desperately seeks and wants to ensure he stays on the right side of the law. On the other hand, the courts and its staff has an obligation to make the reporting restrictions clear and precise, and make sure the media has access or is informed about them. And Robinson is just outside the court building in the street.

    Surely if Robinson is close enough to be charged with breach of peace on the premises of the court building, he is close enough to be guided in some form or another on the boundaries of the reporting restrictions. There are a dusin police officers on the stairs that could help with that.

    So,
    1. The unreasonable broad reporting restriction is in breach of the public interest in open justice and freedom of expression, and should be narrowed to (at least) not include reporting on year old and publicly available information (name, charges, and pictures of the defendants, and the splitting of the trial into parts).
    2. The failure of the court and its staff to provide clear and precise reporting restrictions to media, including Robinson, put him in unreasonable criminal jeopardy he cannot be blamed for, and any verdict and sentencing must be adjusted accordingly. Given the evidence on Robinson’s reporting from his live stream, his breach of the reporting restrictions should be quashed.

  10. All this posturing over such a simple situation.
    Robinson felt aggrieved that his investigations into Jihadism and the network abuse of non-Islamic girls by Islamic men were being censored by the Establishment and the cringing left-leaning kowtowing of the Mass Media. After trying for years to get a platform using MSM he decided to do the Media’s job for them and report on the situation using new on-line opportunities. In this he was highly successful and has a growing world-wide mass audience for his journalistic work, which supports his contention that the Establishment are playing down a situation which, if it occurred in other areas (VIPabuse in Westminster as a particular instance) would be making headline news and speeches in Parliament with WIDE coverage in the Mass Media almost daily. When yet another of the growing instances of network abuse by some groups of Islamic men occurred in Leeds ‘in camera’ and with special injunctions in place to muzzle the press, he took the risky decision to ‘out’ it by streaming the fact that the trial was in process on line. The entire farce after that was caused by the heavy handed punishment meted out by a court obviously intent on using Robinson as an example to anyone who dared to oppose its decisions. The sentence was far too great, the action far too hurried, without proper representation for Robinson’s rights and the conclusion made by a judge obviously ignorant of Robinson’s actual work in this area, who apparently lost patience and dispensed with him as he would a Nazi Thug because of his working class origins and accent, and the vicious and constant MSM attacks on him to try to discredit his work. Morever it was against the wishes of the vast majority of the people who want to know the information which Robinson was trying to supply to make up their own minds.

    This, coupled with the mirth and ridiculing of his case by those ‘in the legal business’ in this blog, show just how unaware and out of touch the Establishment has become of the political revolution happening in the UK today. It reminds me very much of how stupid people in positions of influence lost the American colonies in 1775.
    Full bottomed wigs indeed.

    John Freedom

  11. Interesting conversation this morning between Stephen Glover and an uncomprehending Today presenter about the Cliff Richard judgement. Glover was of the opinion that the BBC should appeal, because, although they had behaved idiotically, and the police even worse, open justice was at stake, and no-one else would be able to do it. He was saying that if the judgement were upheld, people would henceforth live in fear of being secretly arrested by the police.

    What he didn’t say was that Tommy Robinson hadn’t just been secretly arrested by the police, as far as the MSM and most of the domestic internet were concerned: he had also been secretly tried by the lawyers, and secretly imprisoned as well.

  12. Dear Matthew, For some reason SAFF’s comment, accepted by your blog interface does not appear on the screen so I am posting it again in case you missed it.

    26 July 2018

    All this posturing over such a simple situation.
    Robinson felt aggrieved that his investigations into Jihadism and the network abuse of non-Islamic girls by Islamic men were being censored by the Establishment and the cringing left-leaning kowtowing of the Mass Media. After trying for years to get a platform using MSM he decided to do the Media’s job for them and report on the situation using new on-line opportunities. In this he was highly successful and has a growing world-wide mass audience for his journalistic work, which supports his contention that the Establishment are playing down a situation which, if it occurred in other areas (VIPabuse in Westminster as a particular instance) would be making headline news and speeches in Parliament with WIDE coverage in the Mass Media almost daily. When yet another of the growing instances of network abuse by some groups of Islamic men occurred in Leeds ‘in camera’ and with special injunctions in place to muzzle the press, he took the risky decision to ‘out’ it by streaming the fact that the trial was in process on line. The entire farce after that was caused by the heavy handed punishment meted out by a court obviously intent on using Robinson as an example to anyone who dared to oppose its decisions. The sentence was far too great, the action far too hurried, without proper representation for Robinson’s rights and the conclusion made by a judge obviously ignorant of Robinson’s actual work in this area, who apparently lost patience and dispensed with him as he would a Nazi Thug because of his working class origins and accent, and the vicious and constant MSM attacks on him to try to discredit his work. Morever it was against the wishes of the vast majority of the people who want to know the information which Robinson was trying to supply to make up their own minds.

    This, coupled with the mirth and ridiculing of his case by those ‘in the legal business’ in this blog, show just how unaware and out of touch the Establishment has become of the political revolution happening in the UK today. It reminds me very much of how stupid people in positions of influence lost the American colonies in 1775.
    Full bottomed wigs indeed.

    John Freedom

  13. Having read the LCJ’s ruling, your contention that Robinson’s lawyer was adequately experienced doesn’t seem remotely accurate. It is hard to believe that he had any understanding of how contempt proceedings, are supposed to work, and people close to Robinson claim to know this for a fact. In my opinion he is guilty, but it was a show trial that stalinists prosecutors would respect.

  14. Such a shame Matthew that you have followed Secret Barrister in failing to simply admit in your original blog you called it wrong and feel the need to slip in such comments as “even though he obviously was in contempt”, that is for the next presiding judge to determine. It seems clear from the Lord Burnett judgement that Judge Marson QC did, in fact, use the strict liability rule when committing Tommy Robinson and that would mean that TR would need to be guilty of ‘Substantially’ impeding or prejudicing an ongoing trial. I fail to see how that is possible after having scrutinised the whole one hour, fifteen minutes of the LiveStream. I can find nothing that he said that related to the case in question that was not already publicly available and as the jury had retired there is no way they could have seen the Livestream, as accessing the internet whilst in deliberation would result in a contempt of court offence for the juror.

    Personally, I think the retrial is a complete waste of taxpayers money considering that Tommy Robinson has already served the equivalent of a four-month prison sentence and it seems clear that even if there was the slightest risk of prejudicing that ongoing trial then surely this retrial will only increase that risk even further. Though someone might actually kick their brain into gear and postpone the retrial until after the third case is concluded in September. Though I do strongly suspect that the outcome of all three trials once concluded will only further vindicate TR’s actions.

      1. I did point this out to her on Twitter and she has since written a more balanced blog, though still managed to slip in her usual little digs to show her own contempt of Tommy Robinson. The simple unarguable fact of the Leeds contempt trial is that Judge Marson QC, got things seriously wrong and the irony is, his actions have resulted in far more attention to the trial than what Tommy Robinson could have ever hoped for by making his LiveFeed. Personally, I would say Judge Marson’s actions most likely prejudiced that ongoing trial far more than anything that TR did but that is purely a matter of opinion.

        What really concerns me more than anything else is a worry that as law is the thread that holds the very fabric of our society together and that thread is getting seriously frayed at the moment. I do not think that legal bloggers like SB fully comprehend the damage they are doing to the image of the judiciary, by constantly referring to people as racists and/or Nazis, simply because they hold different opinions to themselves, nor do they understand that is actually the finest example of bigotry there is.

        Maybe the day when AI finally takes over the judicial roles in our legal system, cannot come soon enough. It would certainly be interesting to see an AI judge comparison of the Tommy Robinson contempt committal case, to see the difference in the procedure and outcomes.

  15. Yes the snideyness and obvious bias hasn’t done ‘her’ (?) any good. The presumption that anyone who disagreed with her is a ‘racist’ is really unpleasant and yes bigoted.

    For the record I think Tommy did commit Contempt – the LCJ says its quite a serious one – we’ll see.

    I know a lot of ‘normal’ people who just presume Tommy is a racist- when I ask them for ONE piece of evidence they fold.

    I’ve been called a racist whilst having said NOTHING that could be construed as such. I’m not a racist. I don’t really give a toss about race/skin colour etc but I am very opposed to certain ideologies – including some of our home grown ones.

    I left a comment on SBs blog but it was deleted during moderation – it asked her if ‘horrible’ was really a fair description of TRs crimes esp when compared to the people he complains about.

  16. If Tommy did commit Contempt, just by the filming – and if the LCJ says its quite a serious one – when are we going to see the journalists whose scribblings (about information so prejudicial it wasn’t allowed to be presented in court before the jury) got the Milly Dowler / Levi Bellfield jury discharged, the trial abandoned, and Bellfield let off the kidnapping of another girl, jailed for the maximum two years?

    And their editors?

    As for comments left on the Secret Barrister’s blog, of which I don’t doubt there were dozens before comments were closed, I’m sure at least three survived “moderation” but that one mysteriously disappeared post publication AFTER initially surviving moderation.

    I tried to post two comments myself but both are still awaiting “moderation”.

    And when are the police going to arrest and charge, and the CPS and courts going to try and imprison, the gentleman who threated to rape Tommy Robinson’s mother outside the Leeds court and on video, at least for “Hate Crimes”, if not for actual rape threats?

    Oh, and when are they going to go for Mandelson, and probably many, many other politicians, judges, barristers and policemen, for misrepresenting their income and/or savings, and so committing “Mortgage Fraud” like Robinson?

    Prescott, Kinnock, et al for punching people.

    And every “Anti”Fa member, and everyone who agrees with them, for punching a “Fascist” in the Face.

    Or is it only a crime when you “Headbutt a Nazi in the Nostrills” as Robinson did when the Nazi refused to leave an EDL protest?!

    Then there’s all the people who assaulted a police officer’s armlock with their necks (from two yards away in robinson’s case).

    And not only all the (millions of) people who have broken the passport regs on entering the UK, but every other country in the world, which seems to be a reasonable use of court time, going by the prosecution of Robinson.

    And that still leaves disrespecting terrorist’s flags in foreign parts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.