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Ex-EDL leader freed from jail after winning contempt of court challenge

Out of jail: Robinson pictured last year being escorted away from a Britain First march

FORMER English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson has been freed from prison after successfully appealling his 13-month jail sentence for contempt of court.

Robinson is now facing a fresh hearing over an allegation that he filmed people in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media.

Three leading judges in London quashed a contempt finding made at Leeds Crown Court in May, and granted Robinson conditional bail from his jail sentence pending new proceedings at the Old Bailey.

Robinson was not present today when the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Mr Justice Turner and Mrs Justice McGowan announced their decision — which was greeted with a round of applause by supporters in the packed courtroom.

The judges said that a fresh hearing should be held ‘as soon as reasonably possible’.

They said they were satisfied that the decision at Leeds to proceed to committal to prison ‘so promptly’, and without ‘due regard’ to rules governing the procedure to be followed when a Crown Court deals with the conduct of a person alleged to have acted in contempt of court, ‘gave rise to unfairness’.

Splits: Tommy Robinson supporters celebrate outside the High Court in London, while below anti-fascists demonstrate nearby PICTURES: EPA/AP

Lord Burnett announced: ‘We allow the appeal and remit the matter to be heard by a different judge. There is no requirement that it be heard in Leeds.

‘We invite the Attorney General to nominate an advocate to appear at the fresh hearing.

‘It is important that the case is presented by someone other than a judge, having taken proper steps to set out the offending conduct, by reference to the video in question.’

He said: ‘The appellant will be granted bail pending the rehearing. That bail will be conditional.

‘We order that he is not to approach within 400 metres of Leeds Crown Court.’

Lord Burnett added that the rehearing will be conducted by the Recorder of London at the Old Bailey ‘as soon as reasonably possible’.

The judges had been urged to overturn two contempt of court findings against Robinson, 35, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon — the one made at Leeds Crown Court and an earlier finding at Canterbury Crown Court.

At a hearing in July, his QC Jeremy Dein argued that procedural ‘deficiencies’ had given rise to ‘prejudice’.

Mr Dein also submitted that the sentence was ‘manifestly excessive’ and that ‘insufficient’ regard had been given to personal mitigation.

Robinson was jailed in May after he filmed people involved in a criminal trial and broadcast the footage on social media.

The footage, lasting around an hour, was watched 250,000 times within hours of being posted on Facebook.

The far-right activist was given 10 months for contempt of court, which he admitted, and a further three months for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

Robinson was detained outside Leeds Crown Court after using social media to broadcast details of a trial which is subject to blanket reporting restrictions.

In May last year he had faced contempt proceedings over footage he filmed during the trial of four men who were later convicted of gang-raping a teenage girl.

A judge at Canterbury Crown Court gave him a three-month suspended sentence and told him his punishment was not about ‘freedom of speech or freedom of the press’ but about ‘justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly’.

Mr Dein argued during the recent appeal proceedings that the findings of contempt of court on each occasion should be quashed as a ‘conglomeration of procedural deficiencies’ had given rise to prejudice.

The QC said the proceedings in Leeds had been ‘unnecessarily and unjustifiably rushed’.

He told the judges: ‘We maintain it is of particular importance that right from the outset the appellant, albeit in a very stressful and difficult situation, offered to have the live stream taken down and contact people who could do so.’

There had been no intention to disrupt the trial or to breach any order, Mr Dein said.

Lord Burnett, giving reasons for the court’s decision relating to the Leeds Crown Court allegation, said that once Robinson ‘had removed the video from Facebook there was no longer sufficient urgency to justify immediate proceedings’.

The judge at Leeds should not have commenced contempt proceedings that day.

Lord Burnett said ‘no particulars of the contempt were formulated or put to the appellant’, and there was ‘a muddle over the nature of the contempt being considered’.

He added: ‘Where a custodial term of considerable length is being imposed, it should not usually occur so quickly after the conduct which is complained of; a sentence of committal to immediate custody had been pronounced within five hours of the conduct taking place.’

The judges announced they had dismissed Robinson’s appeal in respect of the contempt finding at Canterbury Crown Court.

A group of about 30 anti-fascist protesters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the ruling, shouting chants including ‘Nazi scum, off our streets’ and ‘refugees are welcome here’.