Tommy Robinson, a leading British far-right activist, will face a new trial on contempt of court charges, a court ruled on Tuesday.
The former English Defence League leader is alleged to have filmed people involved in a criminal trial and shared the video on social media. This activity carries a risk of influencing a jury, potentially resulting in a mistrial.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was freed two months into a 13-month jail sentence in August after a contempt conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal. Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox ruled in March it was in the public interest to bring new charges against him.
Two judges at Britain’s High Court agreed with Cox on Tuesday with the full hearing set for July 4-5.
The 36-year-old from Luton could be sent back to jail if found guilty. The charge of contempt of court carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail.
A 400-strong crowd of far-right activists and a counter-demonstration organised by Stand Up To Racism gathered outside the court, causing significant disruption.
The far-right activist, who arrived at the court wearing a T-shirt bearing the words “Vote Tommy”, is standing in the forthcoming European elections, hoping to represent the northwest of England.
Yaxley-Lennon’s supporters chanted “Tommy Robinson is going to be our MEP”.
“I’m just shocked that they are allowed to be here,” criminal defence attorney Rajiv Menon told the Press Association. “I’m not aware of any other political group that have been allowed to block the road and have a protest in front of the Old Bailey like this.
“They are allowed to protest – this is not about the right to protest – but to give them this sort of platform? Nobody else gets that platform … It’s just outrageous – what are City of London Police doing?”
Yaxley-Lennon’s lawyer asked the court on Tuesday to submit new evidence, saying his client was not able to hand it in previously – within the court’s deadline – as he had “a number of other commitments”.
Andrew Caldecott, representing the attorney general, said there were “no cogent reasons” for the delay, but the judges allowed the new evidence, including medical evidence, to be submitted.
Yaxley-Lennon’s “conduct towards some of those defendants … gave rise to a substantial risk that the course of justice would be seriously impeded”, according to the attorney general.
Caldecott told the court that, in the livestream broadcast, Yaxley-Lennon identified one of the defendants in the trial, encouraging viewers to “harass him, find him, go knock on his door, follow him, see where he works, see what he’s doing.”
Yaxley-Lennon said the charges against him are politically motivated. He said he is a journalist who had undergone media training after a previous contempt allegation was made against him.