The far-Right activist twice tried to film Asian defendants in sensitive sex cases, while the trials were under way – in Canterbury in May last year, and in Leeds in May this year. Both judges said this was contempt of court.
What is contempt of court?
Contempt, defined by a complicated series of laws, is activity that undermines a fair trial or defies the orders of a judge. It can bring a two-year jail term.
What was his punishment?
In Leeds, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC ruled that Robinson’s contempt was serious and committed him to prison for 15 months. He reduced that to ten months because Robinson admitted contempt, but added the three-month suspended term imposed by Judge Heather Norton in Canterbury.
Why did Judge Marson get it wrong?
The appeal judges said the judge in Leeds got one thing right – he persuaded Robinson to take his film down from Facebook. But after that things went wrong. Judge Marson acted too hastily, they said. Robinson was given no chance to admit or deny contempt. His punishment was handed down within five hours of the contempt of which he was accused. The judge showed ‘some muddle’.
What about Judge Norton?
Judge Norton made a mistake in referring to contempt as a criminal offence – as did Judge Marson.
Was his punishment too harsh?
Judge Marson’s erroneous ruling – saying that contempt was a criminal offence – had serious consequences for Robinson in prison. Wrongly classed as a convicted criminal, he lost a series of jail privileges including the right to doctors’ visits, to wear his own clothes and to have unrestricted visits.
What happens now?
The appeal judges said the finding of contempt in Leeds must be quashed, and the jail orders dropped. Robinson’s lawyers said contempt charges against him should be abandoned, but the appeal judges said Robinson might have been given a longer jail term than he received, and it was in the public interest for the charges to be properly heard.