UK activist and English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson was arrested on Friday outside of Leeds Crown Court for reporting on a pedophile grooming trial. Within six hours of his arrest, Robinson was handed a 13 month prison term for violating a prior suspended sentence for a similar offense, while media outlets were banned from covering the incident by the court – with several removing reports which had already been published.
Footage shows Robinson, 35, being arrested while livestreaming to his Facebook page outside the courthouse. He can be heard shouting to a friend “Please, George, get me a solicitor, I’m on a suspended sentence, you see.”
“A big police van with about seven police officers pulled up and arrested [Robinson] and told him to stop live streaming,” Robinson’s producer told RT (before their article (archived) was scrubbed from the internet). “They said it was incitement and a breach of the peace.
“No peace has been breached – there were two other people there and he’s been perfectly quiet talking into his phone. [The police] said nothing about the court proceedings. It’s very strange.”
Disturbingly, the judge who sentenced Robinson, Geoffrey Marson QC, ordered an Orwellian media blackout – which resulted in several publications deleting their articles from the web covering Robinson’s arrest.
Robinson was admonished last year by Judge Heather Norton for filming outside a gang rape case in Canterbury, who slapped him with a three month suspended sentence on the condition that he cease his coverage of the trials.
you should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought a further contempt of court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated -Judge Heather Norton
“This is not about free speech, not about the freedom of the press, nor about legitimate journalism, and not about political correctness,” the judge told Robinson at the time.
In response to Robinson’s arrest, a large group of protesters gathered outside Downing Street – while the hashtag #FreeTommy has been used to coordinate a response, express outrage and share information about the situation.
Robinson’s arrest has also sparked a free speech debate over social media, with supporters and detractors alike standing up for the controversial activist’s right (or lack thereof) to express his opinion.
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