by Chauncey Tinker – 2 Aug 2018
Tommy Robinson is out on bail, a re-trial for his “contempt of court” is pending. The mainstream media is currently engaged in a huge smear campaign against him (right across the spectrum), I will give examples of this in a moment. Surely this coverage itself constitutes contempt of court according to the sub-judice rule then? How on earth can these “journalists” not imagine that their words could be prejudicial to this pending court case? So, the media are guilty of the very thing that they are loudly criticizing Tommy Robinson for doing! They should all be sentenced to 13 month prison sentences then – by their own logic!
The criticisms of Tommy, and his imprisonment, all hinge around the idea that discussions about the guilt of the defendant in “active” proceedings may prejudice the trial. Normally a case becomes active at the moment an arrest is made, in the case of an appeal such as has just been heard as I understand it the case becomes active right after the conclusion of the appeal. From schedule 1 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (appellate means relating to an appeal process):
Where, in appellate proceedings relating to criminal proceedings, the court-
(a) remits the case to the court below; or
(b) orders a new trial or avenire de novo, or in Scotland grants authority to bring a new prosecution, any further or new proceedings which result shall be treated as active from the conclusion of the appellate proceedings.
Just a reminder about what the sub-judice rule is all about (from Channel 4):
Statutory contempt law bans the media from publishing or broadcasting, including on the internet, any comments or information that might seriously prejudice active legal proceedings, in particular criminal proceedings heard before juries. The concern is that a juror might hear or see something outside of the courtroom that would sway him/her when he/she is deciding whether an accused person is innocent or guilty.
It may be that this trial is not going to be heard before a jury, but all the same judges are human beings too and may be influenced by negative coverage. If there is no jury in the re-trial, then technically the sub-judice rule does not apply, but in terms of the principle of the thing surely the purpose of this rule is to stop the press discussing on-going court cases in a way that may be prejudicial to the outcome. Towering hypocrisy is at play here. (Edit).
This article at the (left-leaning) New Statesman seems to be calling for Tommy Robinson to receive a fair trial:
Tommy deserves a fair trial – and so do victims in court cases
However near the end of the article the author says this. Quote:
In my experience of successfully prosecuting dozens of defendants in these grooming type cases, the extreme right and those who were convicted had the same strategy - get this trial stopped. My teams and the police spent an extraordinary amount of time and money ensuring these trials went ahead; policing disorder, supporting the victims, managing reporting restrictions and giving the defence everything they needed to present their cases.
This implies that Tommy was deliberately trying to derail the court case, which is surely the opposite of what he was doing. Where is his evidence that Tommy was trying to derail this court case? How on earth is this not prejudicial to Tommy’s pending re-trial? He is also accusing Tommy of belonging to the “extreme right”, but quite what he means by this term is not made clear. The author of this article is:
Nazir Afzal OBE is the former chief prosecutor for North West England
Surely somebody who should know better!
The smear campaign was not restricted to the left-leaning and far-left media, the right wing media was pushing the exact same narrative – Tommy (the ex-EDL leader) is far-right, real name is, he deserved to be imprisoned, he is a convicted criminal etc..
The Sun had this today (scroll down to see the section):
Lout of order
The article states that he jeopardised the case in Leeds, but this has yet to be (re-) decided in the pending re-trial. Quote:
TOMMY Robinson is a nasty thug and a grandstanding idiot.
Yesterday he was freed on appeal over his contempt of court. Supporters say he was locked up too hastily and for too long. But he was already serving a suspended sentence for the same offence.
His many convictions stretch from violence to fraud. We have no sympathy.
The case he jeopardised in Leeds had reporting restrictions, temporarily preventing details being publicised. They’re neither unusual nor a politically-correct cover-up. They’re to avoid prejudicing and collapsing other trials linked to it.
The Express had this:
BBC backlash: Listeners ‘switch off in DISGUST’ as Radio 4 ‘normalise’ Tommy Robinson
This article implies that Tommy was only released on a technicality, that has yet to be decided in the re-trial. Quote:
he filmed people involved in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media before being released on a technicality yesterday.
Given all this, is it any wonder if Tommy Robinson is confused about what exactly constitutes contempt of court (as am I), is it any wonder that Tommy Robinson is confused about what exactly he is allowed to say about on-going court cases? If one reporting restriction – the sub-judice rule – is being so widely ignored so publicly by the mainstream media, then is it reasonable to expect people to abide by other types of reporting restrictions?
Feel free to add any more examples you find in the comments below.
Free Tommy Robinson And Reform The Law
The Principle of the Thing – Equality Before The Law
What do you think? Is Tommy equal before the law? Please leave a comment below.