Britain’s Political Prisoner

Given that For Britain deplored the outrageous decision of the High Court to find Tommy Robinson in contempt of court for filming and speaking to defendants as they attended court, it must follow that we also deplore the sentence. Given that Tommy did nothing wrong, any punishment must, by definition be unfair.

Press release

Britain’s Political Prisoner  

 Paul Ellis, legal officer 

Given that For Britain deplored the outrageous decision of the High Court to find Tommy Robinson in contempt of court for filming and speaking to defendants as they attended court, it must follow that we also deplore the sentence. Given that Tommy did nothing wrong, any punishment must, by definition be unfair.

But yesterdays’ sentence of six months immediate imprisonment plus the activation of three months of his suspended sentence, puts the lie to any suggestion that Tommy had fallen foul of some legal technicality.

In sentencing a court should primarily look at two factors: the culpability of the convicted person and the harm that the offence caused. A person may be very culpable and yet cause no harm, such as an attempted murderer who misses his target or they may have relatively little culpability but cause great harm, for example a driver who from a momentary lapse of attention causes death and serious injury. 

There was no dispute that Tommy had believed that he was not breaching the order preventing ‘any report of the proceedings, or any part of the proceedings’ (section 4(2) Contempt of Court Act 1981) by by reading out the accused’s names and charges (which had been fixed and publicised before the proceedings started) and by asking those individuals attending the proceedings how they were feeling and broadcasting their replies (mostly vulgar profanities). He made references in his reportage to his intent to remain with the law concerning the reporting restrictions. 

Nor could it be said that his interpretation of the law was unreasonable, since it was in accordance with the wording of the guidance issued by the Judicial College – the body that trains judges: 

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

To find Tommy guilty of contempt, Dame Victoria Sharpe QC had to restate this advice as:  

We believe the point that the Judicial College was striving to make was that a section 4(2) order cannot prevent the publication of information in the public domain which is not nor does not purport to be a report of the relevant proceedings.’

This may be the sort of technical distinction (what Katie Hopkins wonderfully described as ‘legal twat-waffle’) that a particularly pernickety judge might think it worth the expense and inconvenience of an Old Bailey trial to clarify for future reference, but taking pains to abide by the judges’ own official guidance as it was written, rather than as it was later interpreted, hardly constitutes the sort of wickedness that merits nine months in the slammer.

As for harm caused, it is agreed by all sides that there was none, other for a fleeting moment of social awkwardness for some child rapists, being asked for a comment by a lone citizen journalist.

There are other factors that a sentencing court can take into account, such as suffering already incurred by the defendant as a result of their actions. Before these proceedings had even begun, Tommy had already suffered ten weeks on starvation diet in virtual solitary confinement from the previous ‘kangeroo court’. Love him or loath him, Tommy Robinson is no snowflake, and the Sky News footage of his release, gaunt and haggard, from prison, resembling a prisoner of war, speaks volumes about the hardships that he must have endured on the inside.  

If ever there was a case for a judge to pass a time served sentence, this was it, but from the moment of Tommy’s illegal arrest for breach of the peace this case never looked as though it had anything to do with achieving justice. In previous blogs I have accused the state of putting on a show trial. Yesterday’s sentence demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that I was correct to do so. It is not Tommy at all but the English legal system that now stands convicted of impeding justice.

 

You can read the full transcript of the judgement here.

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