News, Culture & Society

Bearded Tommy Robinson is released from prison

A bearded Tommy Robinson was released from prison today after serving nine weeks behind bars for contempt of court. 

The English Defence League founder emerged with the beard and uncut hair, as he waved at supporters gathered outside HMP Belmarsh in south-east London.

Photographs and video posted on social media showed Robinson smiling as he was interviewed.

He said: ‘First stop, hairdressers’ and added: ‘Here’s the crazy thing. I walked into Belmarsh prison and walked out, without seeing another prisoner, for my safety.’

Robinson was jailed in July for live-streaming a video which featured defendants in an Asian sex grooming trial and put the case at risk of collapse.

He has spent nine weeks in the Category A prison where he was held in solitary confinement and complained he was like a ‘caged animal’. 

The time he previously spent behind bars for the contempt was taken into account, reducing his sentence to 19 weeks – of which he would serve half before being released.

Supporters had gathered outside the prison, including a man who tweeted photos of the scene and wrote: ‘At #Belmarsh to collect #TommyRobinson.’ 

It emerged last night that he was staying in the same cell that once housed Michael Adebolajo – who brutally hacked off-duty soldier Lee Rigby to death in South-East London in 2013. 

Bearded Tommy Robinson has been released from prison after serving nine weeks behind bars for contempt of court

In a video taken after he merged from the prison he said: 'First stop, hairdressers'

In a video taken after he merged from the prison he said: ‘First stop, hairdressers’

The 36-year-old English Defence League founder is pictured, arriving for his sentencing at the Old Bailey in July

The 36-year-old English Defence League founder is pictured, arriving for his sentencing at the Old Bailey in July

Breitbart News reported that Robinson was confined to his cell from 11am every day, and only let out of solitary confinement for an hour every morning which he spends ‘trudging around a grim prison yard’. 

Why Tommy Robinson was found in contempt of court and what it means 

Why was Tommy Robinson jailed in May 2018?

Robinson was jailed after a judge at Leeds Crown Court found him in contempt of court in May.

The judge determined that Robinson’s broadcasting of a video online breached a court order which postponed any reporting of a trial until the conclusion of another, linked, trial.

He was jailed within five hours of the video being filmed and posted online.

He was previously given a suspended sentence for contempt at Canterbury Crown Court, when a judge told him it was likely he would go to prison if he engaged in similar conduct in future.

What is contempt of court?

Contempt of court law exists to ensure the fairness and integrity of criminal trials.

Where a judge believes there is a ‘substantial risk of serious prejudice’ to a defendant, an order may be made under the Contempt of Court Act which postpones the reporting of a trial until its conclusion.

When making such an order, a judge has to balance the interests of justice in a fair trial taking place with other interests – including free speech and open justice.

In most cases where someone is alleged to be in contempt of court, the matter will be referred to the Attorney General.

He is also allowed another hour in the cell next door to his where he can use an exercise bike. And on occasion he is permitted to visit the prison gym.

The arrangement, it is claimed, was for his own safety. There are concerns he may  have been targeted by other inmates at the prison should he be let out. His window is also kept closed, after excrement was reportedly thrown through it. 

His latest stint marks the second time he’s found himself in prison for contempt of court. 

He was jailed for 13 months after he filmed defendants during the trial of the sexual exploitation of girls at Leeds Crown Court Trial in 2018.

He eventually got out on appeal, and after his release said he’d been the victim of a ‘kangaroo court’ and complained he had lost ‘nearly 40lb’ in prison after living on a diet of one tin of tuna and a piece of fruit a day.  

Ezra Levant, the editor of far-right publication Rebel Media, has also visited Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, in prison.   

The Canadian media mogul claimed Robinson is being kept in a High Security Unit – accommodation which is usually reserved for ‘Islamists’ or high-profile murderers.

He told the publication: ‘He’s isolated from all other prisoners, he has no contact. 

‘It’s solitary confinement in that he’s not allowed to see any other prisoners, but it’s not like in HMP Onley… here, he’s allowed half an hour on the exercise bike, the prison governor himself visits once a day, he has a medical once a day, he’s not being starved.’ 

It was also reported by Breitbart News that Robinson is looking ‘much healthier’ as he came towards the end of his stint at Belmarsh. 

The prison houses convicted terrorists and murderers, and people convicted of serious crimes, including black cab rapist John Worboys.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is also being held there as the US attempts to extradite him for hacking offences. 

In his contempt of court hearing he claimed he did not believe he was breaching reporting restrictions when he filmed the suspects on trial over the sexual exploitation of young girls.  

The reporting ban in place postponed the publication of any details about the case until the end of a series of linked trials involving 29 defendants.

He broadcast the footage from outside Leeds Crown Court on in May 2018 while the jury in the second trial was considering its verdict.

The video was viewed online 250,000 times after being live-streamed on Facebook.

Dame Victoria Sharp, sitting alongside Mr Justice Warby, ruled Robinson had breached the reporting restriction by live-streaming the video and by ‘aggressively confronting and filming’ some of the defendants.

Dame Victoria told Robinson that ‘nothing less than a custodial penalty would properly reflect the gravity of the conduct we have identified’.

She also said he had ‘lied about a number of matters’ and that he had wrongly ‘sought to portray himself as the victim of unfairness and oppression’. 

Timeline of the Tommy Robinson contempt of court case 

May 25, 2018: Robinson is jailed for 13 months for contempt of court after Facebook Live protest outside a trial in Leeds.

May 27, 2018: Sentence sparks protests in London including outside Downing Street.

July 18, 2018: Robinson launches appeal.

August 1, 2018: Judges order his release and say he must face new hearing.

September 27, 2018: A new contempt of court case at the Old Bailey is adjourned after Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC asks for written submissions from all parties.

October 19, 2018: The Huddersfield grooming case is fully reported after the conclusion of all the trials.

October 23, 2018: After considering submissions, judge says case is ‘too complex’ and evidence must be considered by Attorney General.

March 7, 2019: Attorney General decides the case should be reheard.

May 14, 2019: High Court judges rule he will face new contempt of court proceedings 

July 5, 2019: Robinson is found guilty



Find local lawyers and law firms at