The Tommy Robinson Contempt Judgement Summary

On 5th July 2019 judges Mark Warby and Victoria Sharp found Tommy Robinson guilty of contempt of court: See here.

They were only able to do so by using a misleadingly-edited quote of what Tommy said and retrospectively making up sweeping new laws on contempt. The page numbers given are those in the judgement. Many details, such as the complete absence of the required notices advising the reporting order was in force (p11), and Warby and Sharp’s innovative definition of “court precincts” (p25) have had to be left out to keep this summary short.

Warby and Sharp found Tommy guilty in three particulars:

1. Breaching the reporting restriction order (RRO) that Judge Marson had imposed on his series of three linked trials of 29 mostly Muslim men for gang-raping and prostituting children (p2).

According to Judicial College guidelines (p16), RROs cannot prevent re-publication of material that is already in the public domain. Tommy knew this because he had recently attended a legal training course on contempt. He therefore took care to report only details from a BBC News article and a Huddersfield Examiner article published at the start of the trial. These named the defendants and what they were accused of.

Warby and Sharp simply added a new clause to the guidelines (p17), stating that “they believed”

courts have no power under s 4(2) to prevent publication of material that is already in the public domain

actually means

courts have no power under s 4(2) to prevent publication of material that is already in the public domain which is not or does not purport to be a report of the relevant proceedings.

Why would the guidance mention the publication of material at all unless such material were relevant to the case? Of course RROs cannot prevent publication of the Beano or David Copperfield; that does not need stating. This is not a matter of re-interpreting an existing but unclear guideline: Warby and Sharp simply added a new clause that was not there before. In their court on 4th and 5th of July it became contempt to re-publish any material that reported details of proceedings, even an article currently on the BBC News website. They changed the law a year after the fact.

2. The content of what was published gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded (p2) by reason of its impact on the defendants (p20).

A. Warby and Sharp claim that Tommy incited his supporters to harass the defendants (p21), based on this quote from the transcript of his video:

You want to harass someone’s family? You see that man, he was getting aggressive as he walked into court, the man who faces charges of child abduction, rape, prostitution, harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing. You want to stick pictures online and call people and slander people, how about do about them

Here is the full quote in context, with the bit Warby and Sharp extracted in red:

look, there’s no media here, there’s no media here, there’s no press here, there’s no mainstream media, they’re all taking photographs of someone who said something mean on Twitter. They’re not here, they’re not here to find who these people are, they haven’t followed these people, you know this lad who runs Generation Identity, I found out that the media had been harassing his family, yeah y’all know, you want to harass someone’s family? You see that man, he was getting aggressive as he walked into court, the man who faces charges of child abduction, rape, prostitution, harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing. You want to stick pictures online and call people and slander people, how about do about them instead of doing it about someone speaking about them.

Tommy is rhetorically asking the mainstream media why they don’t harass Muslim gang rapists like they harassed the family of the leader of Generation Identity. He is not asking his followers to harass anyone. Warby and Sharp have simply stripped the quote of its context to hide the fact that he is rhetorically addressing the mainstream media. George Eaton did a similar thing to Sir Roger Scruton recently, using partial quotes to make out he’s a racist. The New Statesman was eventually forced to retract and apologise and demoted Eaton.

B. Warby and Sharp claim that Tommy’s ‘harassment’ of the defendants (see below) as they walked into court was so aggressive and so upset them that it “impeded their ability to participate fully in the trial” (p21). This might be arguable if it were the start or middle of the trial. But the evidence had finished being heard. The jury was out. The defendants were attending that morning expecting to be told the verdict. Besides standing up when told to, what “participation in the trial” did they need to do? Warby and Sharp’s argument here is ridiculous.

C. Warby and Sharp further claim there was a risk that the defendants might be so upset by the harassment Tommy hadn’t told his followers to carry out that they might abscond. “Bad man told his followers to harass the defendants (in a quote lifted out of context); his followers whom we can’t name and have never met might do what he (didn’t) ask them to do; the defendants might get so upset they do a runner.” What-if piled upon what-if is not a basis for sending a man to prison. Unless his name is Tommy Robinson, apparently.

If the defendants were a flight risk they should never have been on bail. Contrast Warby and Sharp’s extreme solicitation for the upset feelings of gang rapists with the fact that one of the defendants did actually abscond, though not because of anything Tommy did. He was free to do so because Judge Marson had given all the defendants bail, despite the overwhelming DNA evidence that they had gang raped and prostituted many children. But the police couldn’t appeal to the public to help catch him before he fled the country because of Judge Marson’s gagging order.

3. Aggressively confronting and filming the defendants as they arrive at court interfered with the due administration of justice.

Defendants should be able to arrive at court “without let or hindrance or fear of molestation” (p24). Warby and Sharp claim that Tommy’s behaviour was “of an intimidating nature, and aggressive and provocative”. As anyone who watches Tommy’s livestream can see, his behaviour was much less intimidating than that of many journalists covering trials. He asked the defendants what they thought about the verdict and asked one, “Is that your prison bag?” Asking defendants questions from a short distance away without standing in front of them is not “causing them let or hindrance”. When they tell you to “**** off”, if you then leave them alone that is not “molesting” them. Defendants do not have a right not to be asked questions, even pointed and unwelcome questions. All they had to do was stay silent and keep walking.

If Tommy’s behaviour counts as so “aggressive and provocative” that it interfered with the due administration of justice, almost every reporter who has questioned defendants arriving at court for decades is guilty of such interference. The BBC’s own Lucy Manning aggressively confronted Tommy on his way into his own trial and asked him, “Are you finally going to face justice for potentially collapsing this trial? Is it right that you finally face justice?”

thus presuming his guilt. This was far more “aggressive and provocative” than anything Tommy did. But no-one thinks Lucy Manning will face contempt of court proceedings.

In summary, Warby and Sharp

1. Used misleadingly-edited a quote to ‘prove’ Tommy asked his supporters to harass the defendants when he didn’t

2. Simply made up sweeping new guidance on contempt, a year after the fact, which made re-reporting any article detailing proceedings subject to an RRO into contempt of court, and

3. Asserted that asking defendants unwelcome questions on their way into court is likely to so badly upset them, causing them to be unable to fully participate in proceedings and possibly abscond, that it amounts to interfering with the administration of justice.

2. and 3. would be sweeping changes to English law on contempt – if they were permanent. But we all know they are not. [2019] EWHC 1791 (Admin) will not set a new standard on contempt. The Judicial College will not open an inquiry into whether they should now change their guidelines, nor do Warby and Sharp expect them to. Mainstream media employers are not asking whether they should now change their guidance to their journalists, advising them not to quote material already in the public domain when an RRO is in force and not to ask defendants on their way into court difficult questions. No mainstream journalist risks prison for doing what Tommy did. The new standards for contempt apply only to Tommy Robinson – plus any of his supporters who dare to report anything at all about a Muslim gang rape trial.

Readers will note that Warby and Sharp are not accorded the respect of their official titles. Cutting and pasting a partial quote to ‘prove’ an untrue claim does not merit respect, be you ever so high and mighty. George Eaton is just a left wing journalist who was out to destroy Sir Roger Scruton’s reputation because he is a prominent conservative. How much worse is it when the highest judges in the land use the same tactic to deprive a man of his liberty? Making up new laws as you go along, to retrospectively make something that was legal illegal, does not merit respect either. Mark Warby and Victoria Sharp are a disgrace to their profession.