We now know the reason why Tommy Robinson got arrested. The formal one that is – and it’s not, perhaps a good reason.
ENGLISH Defence League founder Tommy Robinson was today arrested on suspicion of breaching the peace while filming outside court.
The 35-year-old was at Leeds Crown Court on Friday morning and started a live feed on his Facebook page as a child grooming case continued.
Standing in the street and filming something which then goes on Facebook and the like is not normally an arrestable offence. And if doing so outside a courtroom were then the BBC and ITV and…well, lots of people actually – would be in serious trouble.
The thought that there was some other, deeper, reason for the arrest is what is motivating this:
Hundreds of far-right protesters have descended on Whitehall to demonstrate against Tommy Robinson’s arrest for ‘breaching the peace’ outside a courthouse.
Whitehall had to be closed to traffic as a huge group gathered outside Downing Street on Saturday afternoon, chanting Mr Robinson’s name.
It comes after the founder of the English Defence League was apprehended by police while streaming a Facebook live video outside a grooming trial in Leeds on Friday morning.
It’s even possible to have more than a twinge of concern about civil liberties here without being a far right anything at all.
It is that venerable boat, Raedwald, who has unearthed the reason for the arrest:
Inquiries as to why this specific trial may not be reported should be addressed to the judge in question.
1. Trials should be both fair and open to public view (except in the most extreme and rarest cases of national security)
2. We have a well-understood prohibition on not commenting, after a person is charged and before the jury returns a verdict, on anything other than factual details including evidence given or produced during the trial.
3. It is usually perfectly possible to arrest and charge a person breaching this rule with contempt of court; if indeed Robinson breached this rule, his arrest and charge are quite justified. Ill-considered, publicity seeking or coercive behaviour could imperil our getting guilty verdicts against guilty persons.
The issue is (and I think some folk have misunderstood the Censorship Order) the trial judge has ruled that the trial of these persons is to be held in secret and it is difficult indeed to understand why he should have made this order. This bans even the reporting of evidence as it is given in court – something that most people agree motivates other victims of the same sort of crimes to come forward.
In the absence of any reason why the factual reporting of the trial may cause ‘substantial risk of prejudice’ the Censorship Order – and the judge – are on probation. If it subsequently proves to be for sound reasons of justice, fair enough. If it proves to have been made for reasons of political expediency, we must see this judge de-robed. However, I can imagine very few reasons that could justify this draconian prohibition of fair and open justice.
It is indeed an oddity.
It is worth noting, in the interests of balance, that Tommy Robinson won’t be sentenced to prison for his actions. Not these ones anyway we’re in the slap on the wrist and a small fine territory here. Except he’s currently got a suspended sentence hanging over him, one which he’ll have to serve if convicted on this more minor charge.
Which is what is driving the concern of those “far right” types of course.