Industry leaders have rounded on former English Defence leader ‘Tommy Robinson’ after he claimed that his jailing for contempt of court was an attack on journalism.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was jailed at the Old Bailey for nine months today after being found guilty previously of interfering with the trial of a sexual grooming gang at Leeds Crown Court.
Robinson, 36, from Luton, had broadcast footage from outside the court in breach of a court order banning all media coverage until the end of a series of linked trials.
At his sentencing Robinson claimed the sentence was an attack on journalism and wore a t-shirt with the words ‘Convicted of Journalism’ that also compared the UK to North Korea.
But Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, described the claim as a “dangerous distortion of the truth” and said Robinson had broken contempt laws which any junior reporter would be aware of.
Said Ian: “On the one level this underscores how it is the mainstream media and others that devote huge amounts of time and resources to training their journalists that can be relied upon to provide accurate and balanced reporting of the facts.
“While anyone can claim to be a journalist in this country, and there is no appetite nor should there be for the licensing of journalists in the UK, the mainstream British media adheres to the laws of the land, is correctly regulated and ensures its journalists are highly trained.
“I am not aware that Robinson has any formal training as a journalist, and to claim his trial and sentencing is an attack of journalism itself is a farce.”
Ian added: “Sadly there are people who wish to see the media in the UK emasculated and these sorts of claims are so obviously unfounded they provide ammunition to attack us with.
“Against a background where some politicians who should know better are constantly attacking the free media, Robinson’s actions and subsequent claims to represent journalism under attack are a dangerous distraction.
“There are sufficient real and potential threats to genuine journalism to contend with such as the Online Harms White Paper, the Age Appropriate rulings from the Information Commissioner’s Office and the still un-repealed Section 40 clause to the Crime and Courts Act 2013.”
Delivering the sentence, judge Dame Victoria Sharp told Robinson that the time he previously spent behind bars for contempt would be taken into account, reducing his sentence to 19 weeks – of which he would serve half before being released.
Robinson’s barrister Richard Furlong indicated he may appeal against the court’s decision and was told he has 28 days to apply.
The attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said the sentencing showed the courts took matters of contempt seriously and urged everyone to think carefully about whether their social media posts could amount to contempt of court.