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Tommy Robinson (activist)

Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (born 27 November 1982),[3] known by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, and previously as Andrew McMaster, Paul Harris and Wayne King,[4] is an English far-right activist[5] serving as a political adviser to the Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Gerard Batten since November 2018. Robinson was a co-founder, former spokesman and former leader of the controversial English Defence League (EDL) organisation.[6] He was a member of the British National Party (BNP) from 2004 to 2005.[1] For a short time in 2012, he was joint vice-chairman of the British Freedom Party (BFP).

Tommy Robinson
Tommy Robinson at Speakers' Corner, Hyde Park.png
Robinson in March 2018
Special Political Advisor for the
Leader of the UK Independence Party
Assumed office
22 November 2018
LeaderGerard Batten
ChairmanKirstan Herriot
Preceded byJonathan Arnott
Leader of the English Defence League
In office
5 August 2009 – 8 October 2013
ChairmanSteve Eddowes
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byTim Ablitt
Personal details
Born
Stephen Christopher Yaxley

(1982-11-27) 27 November 1982 (age 36)
Luton, Bedfordshire, England
CitizenshipBritish
Political partyBritish National Party (2004–2005)[1]
British Freedom Party (2012)[2]
ResidenceLuton, Bedfordshire, England
Known forFormer leader of the English Defence League and European Defence League
Websitetommyrobinson.online

Robinson led the EDL from 2009 until 8 October 2013. He continued as an activist, and in 2015 became involved with the development of Pegida UK, a British chapter of the German-based Pegida organisation (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West).[7] From 2017 to 2018, Robinson wrote for and appeared in online videos for The Rebel Media, a Canadian far-right political website.

In May 2018, Robinson was sentenced to 13 months' imprisonment for contempt of court after publishing a Facebook Live video of defendants entering a law court, contrary to a court order to prevent reporting those trials while proceedings are ongoing.[8] That sentence included activation of an earlier three-month suspended sentence for a similar earlier contempt of court at Canterbury. On 1 August 2018 Robinson appealed against the contempt convictions at Canterbury and at Leeds. The matter came before The Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). His appeal against the Leeds conviction succeeded and the sentence was quashed. A new trial was ordered. His appeal against the Canterbury conviction failed in all respects bar one. The court had wrongly recorded that Robinson had been sentenced to three months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. In fact he had been committed to prison for three months suspended for 18 months. The Court of Appeal ordered the court records be amended to reflect the correct sentence. The distinction between sentenced to imprisonment and committed to prison for contempt affects the way the sentenced person is managed.[9]

Contents

Biography

Robinson was born Stephen Christopher Yaxley[10] in Luton, England. In an interview with Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio Five live in 2010, he said that his parents "were Irish immigrants to this country".[11] His mother, who worked at a local bakery,[12] remarried when Robinson was still young; his stepfather, Thomas Lennon,[1] worked at the Vauxhall car plant in Luton.[12]

Robinson married in 2011 and is the father of three children.[13] He owns a sunbed shop in Luton.[14]

According to Robinson, after leaving school, he applied to study aircraft engineering at Luton Airport: "I got an apprenticeship 600 people applied for, and they took four people on". He qualified in 2003 after five years of study, but then lost his job when he was convicted of assaulting an off-duty police officer in a drunken argument.[12] He served a 12-month prison sentence.[15]

Robinson joined the British National Party, then led by Nick Griffin, in 2004. When questioned about this by journalist Andrew Neil in June 2013, he said that he had left after one year, saying, "I didn't know Nick Griffin was in the National Front, I didn't know non-whites couldn't join the organisation. I joined, I saw what it was about, it was not for me".[1]

As leader of the English Defence League (EDL), Robinson sometimes wore a bullet-proof vest when appearing in public, telling the BBC that his business and his home had been attacked, and that he personally had been threatened by armed Muslims.[14]

The name Tommy Robinson is a pseudonym taken from a prominent member of the "Men In Gear" (MIG) football hooligan crew, which follows Luton Town Football Club.[16] The member named Tommy Robinson wrote two books about his 25 years of hooliganism.[17]

Robinson was involved with the group United Peoples of Luton, formed in response to a March 2009 protest against Royal Anglian Regiment troops returning from the Afghan War[18] being attacked by the Islamist groups Al-Muhajiroun and Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah.[19]

Robinson denies racism and antisemitism,[20] and has declared his support for the Jewish people and Israel, calling himself a Zionist.[21] Robinson has said that his group of friends includes both black and Muslim people.[20][22]

English Defence League

 
Robinson with EDL demonstrators in Amsterdam in 2010

Robinson founded the English Defence League (EDL) and in August 2009, became its leader with his cousin, Kevin Carroll, its deputy leader.[23] Robinson stated that he had been prompted to found the EDL after he had read a newspaper article about local Islamists attempting to recruit men outside a bakery in Luton to fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan.[12] Robinson has appeared masked at protests.[15] Although Robinson repeatedly insisted from the early days of the organisation that the EDL was "against the rise of radical Islam" and that its members "aren't against Islam", its rank and file were noted for including football hooligans and members who described themselves as anti-Muslim.[16][24] Robinson founded the European Defence League, a co-ordination of groups similar to the EDL operating in different European countries.[25]

Robinson said he was assaulted on 22 December 2011 after stopping his car due to another car flashing its lights at him. He said that a group of three men attacked and beat him, until they were stopped by the arrival of a "good Samaritan". Robinson said that the attackers were of Asian appearance.[26]

Robinson was convicted in 2011 of using "threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour" during a fight between supporters of Luton Town and Newport County in Luton the previous year. Robinson reportedly led the group of Luton fans, and played an integral part in starting a 100-man brawl, during which he chanted "EDL till I die". He was sentenced to a 12-month community rehabilitation order with 150 hours unpaid work and a three-year ban from attending football matches.[27]

Robinson was arrested again after an EDL demonstration in Tower Hamlets in September 2011 for breach of bail conditions, as he had been banned from attending that demonstration. Robinson later began a hunger strike while on remand in HM Prison Bedford, saying that he was a "political prisoner of the state",[28] and refused to eat what he believed was halal meat.[29] A handful of EDL supporters protested outside the prison in support of Robinson during his incarceration; the support peaked at a turnout of 100 protesters on 10 September.[30] Robinson was released on bail on 12 September.[31]

On 29 September 2011, Robinson was convicted of common assault after headbutting a fellow EDL member at a rally in Blackburn in April that year.[32] He was sentenced to 12 weeks' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.[33] Robinson said that the assault had happened because of a confrontation with a neo-Nazi who had joined the EDL.[34][35]

On 8 November 2011, Robinson held a protest on the rooftop of the FIFA headquarters in Zürich against FIFA's ruling that the England national football team could not wear a Remembrance poppy symbol on their shirts. For this he was fined £3,000 and jailed for three days.[36]

In 2012 Robinson announced that he had joined the British Freedom Party (BFP). He was appointed its joint vice-chairman along with Carroll after the EDL and the BFP agreed an electoral pact in 2011.[37] However, on 11 October 2012, Robinson resigned from the BFP to concentrate on EDL activities.[38]

Leaving the EDL

In April 2012, Robinson took part in a programme in the BBC's television series The Big Questions in which far-right extremism was debated. Mo Ansar, a British Muslim political and social commentator took part in the same programme, and invited Robinson to join him and his family for dinner. This resulted in several meetings over the next 18 months between Robinson and Ansar to discuss Islam, Islamism and the Muslim community, accompanied by a BBC team which created the documentary When Tommy Met Mo.[39] Robinson and Ansar visited the think tank Quilliam and Robinson witnessed a debate between Quilliam's director, Maajid Nawaz, and Ansar about human rights.[39] On 8 October 2013, Quilliam held a press conference with Robinson and Kevin Carroll to announce that Robinson and Carroll had left the EDL. Robinson said that he had been considering leaving for a long time because of concerns over the "dangers of far-right extremism".[40][22] Robinson said that it was still his aim to "counter Islamist ideology [...] not with violence but with democratic ideas". Ten other senior figures left the EDL with Robinson and Carroll, and Tim Ablitt became the EDL's new leader.[40][41]

When Robinson was questioned by The Guardian about having blamed "'every single Muslim' for 'getting away' with the 7 July bombings, and for calling Islam a fascist and violent religion, he held up his hands and said, 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry.'" Robinson also said that he would now give evidence to the police to help in their investigation of racists within the EDL. Robinson added that "his future work would involve taking on radicalism on all fronts".[42][43] Robinson claimed in his autobiography that he was paid £2,000 per month for Quilliam to take credit for his leaving the EDL, which a Quilliam spokesperson denied.[44][45]

Later activities

Robinson spoke at the Oxford Union on 26 November 2014. Unite Against Fascism (UAF) protested against his appearance, criticising the Union for allowing him the platform when, according to UAF, he had not renounced the views of the EDL. Robinson told the audience he was not allowed to talk about certain issues because he was out on prison licence. He said, "I regain my freedom of speech on the 22 July 2015." He criticised "politicians, the media and police for failing to tackle certain criminal activities because of the fear of being labelled Islamophobic."[46] He claimed that Woodhill prison had become "an ISIS training camp", and that radicals were "running the wings".[47] After release from licence at the end of his sentence Robinson returned to anti-Islam demonstrations with Pegida, a British offshoot of a German anti-immigration organisation founded in Dresden amid the European migrant crisis. Addressing a Pegida anti-Islam rally in October 2015, Robinson spoke out against what he perceived to be the threat of Islamist terrorists posing as refugees.[48] He announced the creation of a "British chapter" of Pegida in December 2015. He said that alcohol and fighting would not be permitted because "It's too serious now for that stuff", and told The Daily Telegraph that a mass demonstration would take place across Europe on 6 February 2016.[7] On 14 February 2016, Robinson was attacked and treated at a hospital after leaving a nightclub in Essex.[49]

Robinson wrote an autobiography, Enemy of the State, which was self-published in 2015.[50][51]

 
18 March 2018, Robinson at Speakers' Corner

Robinson travelled to watch UEFA Euro 2016 in France and demonstrated with a T-shirt and English flag ridiculing the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Bedfordshire Police imposed a football banning order on him on his return; his solicitor Alison Gurden accused the police of a "campaign of harassment" and said that they had equated the proscribed terrorist group with all Muslims in their action.[52] In September, a judge at Luton Magistrates' Court dismissed the case, calling the prosecution's evidence "vague" and "cagey".[53]

On 27 August 2016, 18 Luton Town football supporters, including Robinson and his family, were ejected by police from a Cambridge pub on the day of the Cambridge United versus Luton football match. Robinson claimed he had been victimised, and complaints were submitted to Cambridge Police.[54]

Robinson was a correspondent for The Rebel Media, a Canadian right-wing website.[55] In May 2017, he was arrested for contempt of court after he attempted to take video of the defendants in a child rape case outside Canterbury Crown Court.[56][57]

Robinson's second self-published book, Mohammed's Koran: Why Muslims Kill For Islam was co-authored with Peter McLoughlin and released in 2017.[58][non-primary source needed]

Robinson was involved in a fist fight at Royal Ascot later in June 2017, for which Piers Morgan criticised him on Twitter.[59]

In March 2018, Robinson was permanently banned from the microblogging site Twitter for violating its rules on "hateful conduct".[60]

In March 2018, Robinson attended court in support of Mark Meechan, who was charged for a hate crime after posting footage online of a dog performing Nazi salutes in response to the phrases "gas the Jews" and "Sieg Heil". Meechan was found guilty because the video was "antisemitic and racist in nature" and was aggravated by religious prejudice.[61] Meechan claimed that the video was taken out of context and was a joke to annoy his girlfriend.[62]

Actions relating to Finsbury Park terrorist attack

It was revealed in court that the perpetrator of London's 2017 Finsbury Park terrorist attack received emails from Robinson and read Robinson's tweets in the lead-up to the attack. Robinson's tweet mocking people for responding to terrorism with the phrase "don't look back in anger" was found in the note at the scene of the attack. An email from Robinson's account to the attacker Darren Osborne shortly before read, "Dear Darren, you know about the terrible crimes committed against [name redacted] of Sunderland. Police let the suspects go… why? It is because the suspects are refugees from Syria and Iraq. It's a national outrage…" Another email read, "There is a nation within a nation forming just beneath the surface of the UK. It is a nation built on hatred, on violence and on Islam."[63]

Robinson responded on Twitter to the Finsbury Park attack, writing, "The mosque where the attack happened tonight has a long history of creating terrorists & radical jihadists & promoting hate & segregation," and, "I'm not justifying it, I've said many times if government or police don't sort these centres of hate they will create monsters as seen tonight." Robinson's statements were widely criticised in the media as inciting hatred.[64] Appearing the next morning on Good Morning Britain, Robinson held up the Quran and described it as a "violent and cursed book". The host, Piers Morgan, accused him of "stirring up hatred like a bigoted lunatic", and Robinson's appearance drew a number of complaints to Ofcom.[65]

Commander Dean Haydon of Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command said that online material from Robinson had played a "significant role" in how Osborne was radicalised and "brainwashed".[66] Mark Rowley, the outgoing Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the UK’s most senior counter-terror officer said that there is "no doubt" that material posted online by people including Robinson drove the Finsbury Park terror attacker to targeting Muslims.[67] In response, Robinson said "I'm gonna find Mark Rowley."[68]

Almondbury Community School assault

After a Syrian refugee boy was assaulted in a school bullying incident, Robinson falsely accused the victim of having previously attacked two schoolgirls.

The 15 year old refugee was dragged to the floor by his neck and told by his attacker, "I'll drown you", while water was forced into his mouth. The boy's arm was in a cast after it had been broken in a separate assault.[69] His sister had also been assaulted.[70]

A 16 year old boy believed to be the attacker, who was interviewed by police and given a court summons, had shared numerous social media posts by Robinson.[69] On Facebook, Robinson subsequently posted a screenshot of a message from a mother saying her daughter had been bullied and he accused the refugee of being the bully. However, the mother responded on Robinson's Facebook page informing him this was false.[71] Robinson also made a false allegation using a photo stolen from a news article on a teenage cancer patient.[72]

After receiving a letter from lawyers representing the refugee boy's family, pointing out that the videos Robinson had posted "contain a number of false and defamatory allegations", Robinson admitted to his followers that it was fake news and claimed that he had been duped: "I have been completely had, how embarrassing man."[73] Robinson deleted the videos and admitted to posting a fake photograph purporting to show violence by a Muslim gang.[74] He was warned about legal action for defamation. In response to allegations from Robinson's supporters that this warning "blocked" free speech, a lawyer said, "Tommy Robinson thinks it is a good idea to defame this 15-year-old boy and accuse him of being the author of his own bullying. It is actually sickening."[75]

These events forced the refugee's family to relocate because "the level of abuse the children have received has become too much".[76] The family decided to move elsewhere in West Yorkshire.[77]

Robinson may have breached court orders preventing the naming of the alleged perpetrator in several videos on Facebook and Instagram, including one that has been viewed more than 150,000 times. A lawyer said in doing so Robinson had "compounded" the refugee's suffering, adding "many people on social media having viewed Mr Yaxley-Lennon’s [Robinson's] lies believed them and expressed their outrage toward Jamal [the refugee]."[78]

Contempt proceedings

In 2017, Robinson received a suspended sentence for putting a trial at Canterbury Crown Court at risk of collapse, by broadcasting prejudicial statements about defendants from inside the court building. In 2018, he was imprisoned for a similar offence at Leeds Crown Court. However, he was later released following a successful challenge to the court's sentencing procedure.[79] A retrial was requested from the attorney general.[80]

Both sentences were for the criminal offence of contempt of court, which can include speeches or publications that create a "substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be seriously impeded or prejudiced".[81]

2017 suspended sentence

In May 2017, Robinson was convicted of contempt of court for putting a gang-rape trial in danger of collapsing. He filmed inside Canterbury Crown Court and posted prejudicial statements calling the defendants "Muslim child rapists" while the jury was deliberating. He received a three month sentence, suspended for 18 months.[79][82]

Judge Heather Norton said Robinson used "pejorative language in his broadcast which prejudged the outcome of the case and could have had the effect of substantially derailing the trial".[79] She added, "this is not about free speech, not about the freedom of the press, nor about legitimate journalism, and not about political correctness. It is about justice and ensuring that a trial can be carried out justly and fairly, it's about being innocent until proven guilty. It is about preserving the integrity of the jury to continue without people being intimidated or being affected by irresponsible and inaccurate 'reporting', if that's what it was".[81]

2018 imprisonment

Robinson was jailed and later released in the summer of 2018 for almost collapsing the Huddersfield grooming gang trial.[79][83]

On 25 May 2018, Robinson was arrested for a breach of the peace while live streaming outside Leeds Crown Court[81][84] during the trial of the Huddersfield grooming gang on which reporting restrictions had been ordered by the judge.[85] Following Robinson's arrest, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC[86] issued a further reporting restriction on Robinson's case, prohibiting any reporting of Robinson's case or the grooming trial until the latter case is complete.[87][84]

The reporting restriction with regard to Robinson was lifted on 29 May 2018, following a challenge by journalists. The media reported that Robinson had admitted contempt of court by publishing information that could prejudice an ongoing trial, and had been sentenced to 13 months' imprisonment.[8] Justice Marson sentenced Robinson to ten months for contempt of court and his previous three months' suspended sentence was activated because of the breach. Robinson's lawyer said that Robinson felt "deep regret" after comprehending the potential consequences of his behaviour.[88] Having breached a temporary section 4 (2) order under the Contempt of Court Act 1981,[89] Robinson was told that if a retrial had to be held as a result of his actions the cost could be "hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pounds".[88][90]

Robinson lodged an appeal which claimed that he had not admitted the charges or been given a chance to apologise. His lawyer claimed that his initial contempt trial was flawed; the details of the charge were not clear. He argued that his sentence was unfair.[91] The appellate court issued its ruling on 1 August 2018 and ordered a new hearing of the case. Robinson was released on bail pending the new hearing.[9] The Court of Appeal agreed to hear Robinson's appeal even though it was launched outside the 28-day time limit for challenging convictions. The court agreed to hear the appeal because Robinson had been held in "effective solitary confinement", which had made it difficult for Robinson to have meetings with his lawyers.[92] Following court hearings on 27 September[93] and 23 October, the case was referred to the attorney general – currently Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox. Judge Nicholas Hilliard said the matter was so complex it needed further consideration, adding "all the evidence must be rigorously tested". The referral would allow witnesses to be cross-examined.[80][94] On 5 November, Robinson was released from bail, meaning "there are no bail conditions".[95]

Actions of supporters

 
9 June 2018, Trafalgar Square: Protests for the release of Robinson

The jailing of Robinson drew condemnation from right-wing circles.[96] The UK Independence Party leader Gerard Batten MEP expressed concern about the proceedings and the ban on reporting.[97] Robinson attracted sympathy from several right-wing politicians in Europe, including the Dutch Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders[84] and the member of the German Bundestag for the far-right Alternative for Germany Petr Bystron.[98]

On the weekends following Robinson's arrest, his supporters held rallies in his support.[84][99] Demonstrators prevented a Muslim woman from driving a bus,[100] performed Nazi salutes, threw scaffolding, glass bottles and street furniture at police and damaged vehicles and buildings.[101]

Robinson's supporters sent abusive messages to journalists who were complying with the court order by waiting until after the trial, wrongly lambasting them for "covering up" crime.[83]

An online petition for his release had more than 500,000 signatures.[102] Anti-fascist advocacy group Hope not Hate said its analysis showed that 68.1% of the signatures were from the UK, with 9.7% from Australia, and 9.3% from the US. Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland accounted for the remainder.[103]

In July 2018, Reuters reported that the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, lobbied the UK government on the treatment of Robinson.[104] The Middle East Forum has also lobbied the United States government and provided financial aid for rallies and legal aid.[105]

Robinson's manager, Caolan Robertson, spread false information substantially exaggerating the Muslim population of a prison to which Robinson was moved. Robertson told the InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that Robinson's new prison was "about 71 per cent Muslim" and therefore "really, really, really disastrous". This falsehood was also propagated by the InfoWars writer Paul Joseph Watson. The former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam tweeted it to his followers while falsely accusing the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, of moving Robinson there.[106]

Aftermath of imprisonment

On 2 August 2018, Robinson was interviewed on Tucker Carlson Tonight.[107][108] During the interview, Robinson mainly discussed his prior two months in prison. He said that he was initially put in HM Prison Hull, where he was treated well; he was then transferred to HM Prison Onley, where, he claimed, he was severely mistreated, including with solitary confinement. The prison service rejected his claims saying "Mr Yaxley-Lennon was treated with the same fairness we aim to show all prisoners – he had access to visits, television and showers – and it is totally false to say he was held in 'solitary confinement'", adding that he had been kept in a care and separation unit for 48 hours whilst an assessment was made of his safety.[109]

In October 2018, further controversy arose after Robinson posted a joint photo with two dozen young British Army "recruits" as he described them. He also posted on his Facebook page a video of the occasion in which the soldiers allegedly cheered him shouting his name. The British Army launched an investigation into the matter, saying, "Far-right ideology is completely at odds with the values and ethos of the armed forces. The armed forces have robust measures in place to ensure those exhibiting extremist views are neither tolerated nor permitted to serve."[110] The Government's lead counter-extremism commissioner praised the army's response, saying, "This is typical of the far right. They manipulate and exploit their way into the mainstream, often targeting the military and co-opting its symbols. Tommy Robinson's attention-seeking is cover for divisive anti-Muslim hatred that is causing real harm to individuals, communities and society in general."[111]

Reporting restrictions were lifted on the three Huddersfield grooming gang trials after the jury reached a verdict in the final trial. The Yorkshire Evening Post explained that it abided by the temporary restrictions because "If we had reported on the first trial then jurors may have been swayed in the second trial - a defence lawyer would argue that their clients could not get a fair hearing ... the whole trial could have collapsed ... a judge may have had to rule that they could not get a fair trial and those girls would NEVER have seen the men brought to justice".[83]

The Arizona Republican Representative, Paul Gosar, and six other congressmen invited Robinson to speak at a private meeting in Congress on 14 November 2018 on a trip sponsored by the Middle East Forum, though his criminal convictions and previous fraudulent use of a passport in the US made obtaining a visa problematic.[112] Robinson failed to obtain a visa in time for the meeting.[113]

In November 2018, PayPal told Robinson that it would no longer process payments on his behalf, saying that "Striking the necessary balance between upholding free expression and open dialogue and protecting principles of tolerance, diversity and respect for all people is a challenge that many companies are grappling with today." Robinson described the decision as "fascism".[114] The service said it cannot "be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory".[115]

Criminal convictions

Robinson was jailed for assault in 2005, has convictions for drugs offences and public order offences, was jailed in 2012 for illegally entering the United States using a false passport[116] and jailed again in 2014 for a £160,000 mortgage fraud.[117]

His 2005 sentence was for assaulting an off-duty police officer[118] who had come to the rescue of his girlfriend, now wife, during a drunken confrontation. Robinson said "I've kicked him in the head" and "I felt like I shouldn't of gone to jail for what I did".[17]

He was convicted in 2011 of leading a brawl involving 100 football fans.[27]

False passport

In October 2012, Robinson was arrested and held on the charge of having entered the United States illegally. Robinson pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to using someone else's passport to travel to the United States in September 2012, and was sentenced in January 2013 to 10 months' imprisonment.[119][120]

Robinson had used a passport in the name of Andrew McMaster to board a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York.[116] He had been banned from entering the US due to a drugs offence. When he arrived at New York’s JFK Airport, customs officials who took his fingerprints realised he was not Mr McMaster. He was asked to attend a second interview but left the airport, entering the US illegally. He stayed one night and returned to the UK the following day using his own legitimate passport - which bears the name Paul Harris.[121]

Judge Alistair McCreath told him: "What you did went absolutely to the heart of the immigration controls that the United States are entitled to have. It's not in any sense trivial."[116]

He was released on electronic tag on 22 February 2013.[122]

Fraud

In November 2012, Robinson was charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by misrepresentation in relation to a mortgage application, along with five other defendants.[123] He pleaded guilty to two charges and in January 2014 was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.[124][120]

Robinson's fraud amounted to £160,000 over a period of six months. Judge Andrew Bright QC described him as the "instigator, if not the architect" of a series of frauds totalling £640,000. "This was an operation which was fraudulent from the outset and involved a significant amount of forward planning." He described Robinson as a "fixer" who had introduced others to fraudulent mortgage broker Deborah Rothschild. Rothschild had assisted some defendants by providing fake pay slips and income details.[117]

Robinson was attacked by several fellow prisoners in HM Prison Woodhill.[125][126] Following news of the attack, Maajid Nawaz wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, asking for Robinson's situation to be urgently addressed.[126][127] Shortly after this incident, Robinson was moved to HM Prison Winchester. Robinson told Jamie Bartlett, a director of the think tank Demos: "In Woodhill, I experienced Islam the gang. [...] In Winchester, I have experienced Islam the religion." Robinson made friends with several Muslim prisoners, referring to them as "great lads [...] I cannot speak highly enough of the Muslim inmates I'm now living with".[128] In June 2014 Robinson was released on licence. The terms of his early release included having no contact with the EDL until the end of his original sentence in June 2015.[128] He was due to talk to the Oxford Union in October 2014, but was recalled to prison before the event for breaching the terms of his licence.[129] He was ultimately released on 14 November 2014.[130]

UKIP affiliation

In September 2018, Robinson expressed a desire to join the UK Independence Party (UKIP). UKIP's rules prohibit membership to those who have been part of extreme right wing groups in the past, which preclude Robinson from joining as he founded the English Defence League (EDL) and had ties for a while with the British Freedom Party.

UKIP's National Executive Committee intends to consider waiving that clause for Robinson as a special case. If approved, his possible membership would be put to a vote at the party's conference.[131] The committee's decision was deferred until after 29 March 2019.[132] UKIP leader Gerard Batten supports Robinson joining the party, while UKIP Welsh Assembly members Michelle Brown and David Rowlands said they oppose it.[133]

On 23 November 2018, Batten appointed Robinson as his own adviser.[134] In response, the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage described Robinson as a "thug" and said he was heartbroken with the direction UKIP was going.[135] Farage and Brown called for Batten to be removed as leader.[134] At a UKIP meeting on 30 November, Robinson sat beside Daniel Thomas, a convicted kidnapper.[136]

Resignations

Many longstanding prominent UKIP members resigned from the party in response to Robinson's appointment, including:

  • Former economics spokesperson Patrick O'Flynn, an MEP, left UKIP on 27 November saying Batten was changing UKIP "without any mandate from the membership or the party’s elected ruling body" and "many longstanding party members have already left as a result".[137]
  • Former deputy chairperson Suzanne Evans left on 3 December, accusing Batten and Robinson of a "Momentum-style takeover" aimed at making UKIP "a successor to the BNP".[138]
  • Nigel Farage, an MEP who led the party for many years, left on 4 December saying Robinson's "entourage includes violent criminals and ex-BNP members"[139] who cause "scuffles" and "violence" with many having "criminal records, some pretty serious".[140]
  • Welsh MEP Nathan Gill left on 6 December saying UKIP "has left me" and "betrayed its members, Brexiteers and the British people".[141]
  • Scottish leader and MEP David Coburn left on 7 December "with great sadness" because UKIP had been "infiltrated by people with an alternative agenda".[142]
  • Former leader Paul Nuttall, an MEP, left the party on 7 December calling the appointment a "catastrophic error" which "will simply appall many moderate Brexit voters".[143]
  • Former health spokesperson Julia Reid, an MEP, left on 8 December because the party "seems to have lost its way".[144]
  • Energy spokesperson and MEP Jonathan Bullock left on 9 December, saying Robinson's appointment "breaks [UKIP's] constitution which proscribes discrimination on grounds of religion" and "the contract with MEPs, and the party members has thus been broken".[145]

References

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  2. ^ "Stephen Lennon and Kevin Carroll Join British Freedom!". British Freedom Party. 5 May 2012. Archived from the original on 10 July 2012. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  3. ^ EDL leader interviewed by Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics (16Jun13), 16 June 2013, archived from the original on 30 June 2016, retrieved 22 March 2018
  4. ^ "Tommy Robinson Explains The Making Of An Alter-Ego Even His Wife Can't Stand". HuffPost UK. 10 December 2015. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
    - Julian Simmonds (7 January 2013). "EDL leader jailed for being illegal immigrant after entering US on friend's passport". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
    - "EDL leader Stephen Lennon jailed for false passport offence". BBC News. 7 January 2013. Archived from the original on 9 April 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
    - Kelly, Jane (28 May 2018). "Tommy Robinson; The Three Boys. Drunk Driving or a police cover up?". Salisbury Review.
  5. ^ "UK far-right figure Tommy Robinson jailed for contempt". Business Insider. 29 May 2018. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
    - "Morrissey defends Tommy Robinson and new far-right party". The Week. 7 June 2018. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
    - Hamilton, Fiona (30 May 2018). "Far-right provocateur Tommy Robinson jailed over court rant". The Times. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
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External links