Tommy Robinson heading back to court

Less than five months after a United Kingdom judge referred Tommy Robinson’s contempt of court case to the attorney general, a new hearing has been ordered for the English activist.

United Kingdom Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said Thursday that there are “strong grounds” to bring new proceedings against Robinson. The case will be re-heard in London on March 22.

The question of whether Robinson was in contempt of court stems from a live stream he hosted last May outside the Leeds courthouse where a number of now-convicted sex groomers were appearing. Robinson, whose sentence on an earlier contempt finding was suspended, was arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced to 13 months behind bars within a matter of five hours. He was hauled off to prison that very day despite the administrative nature of his offense.

He appealed the conviction in August, prompting a judge to acknowledge numerous errors made by the Leeds judge who prosecuted him. A new hearing was ordered for October at the Old Bailey.

In October, Recorder of London Nicholas Hilliard found that Robinson’s statement raised enough doubts about the case that it should be referred to the attorney general, who has been tight-lipped on his plans until issuing his decision Thursday.

I was in the courthouse for that hearing, during which you may remember I overheard British Press Association journalists conspiring to manipulate their coverage of Robinson and his legal ordeal.

Robinson has long maintained that he will end up behind bars regardless, citing the prosecutorial witchhunt that he says has dogged him to this point.

If scheduling permits, I hope to be back in London to cover the case’s latest developments.

Why the Tommy Robinson case matters

In my new life as an independent journalist and commentator, no story I’ve tackled has had the reach and interest of my coverage of the Tommy Robinson trial-that-never-was in England last month.

It’s understandable given how many of today’s most pressing cultural concerns are encapsulated in the case. Judicial activism, free speech, excessive immigration, media bias, and class divide: all of them are central to what’s happened to Robinson, and how it’s been covered (or not covered, such as the case may be.)

Bob Metz and Robert Vaughan of Just Right Media have been covering many of these issues for years, and graciously invited me back to their program to discuss what I learned and uncovered in England, and how this case fits into the work I’m doing on immigration and constitutional liberties with the True North Initiative.

If you’ve followed the Robinson case extensively you’ll be a bit bored with the opening few minutes of the case, where I recap the backstory before getting into the meat. But do stick through it, as it’s an hour of great discussion about key issues facing western society.

Listen to the interview in full here.

In conversation with Tommy Robinson

Tommy Robinson carried a prison bag into London’s famous Old Bailey courthouse last week, expecting he’d be headed to jail after a contempt of court hearing.

That hearing never happened. The judge instead referred the case to the attorney general, which Robinson and his legal team had wanted all along. It was passionate personal statement from Robinson that swayed the judge.

This may be the end of the road for Robinson’s legal trials, but it won’t be for Robinson himself, who is still on a mission to expose the rape and grooming gangs that have popped up around the United Kingdom and Europe.

When I left Canada for the England, I wrote here that my coverage for the True North Initiative was for two purposes: I wanted to cover the case in a way the mainstream press has proven itself unable to, and also to get to the bottom of who and what Robinson really is.

The night before his court appearance, I sat down with Robinson one-on-one to talk about his legal ordeal, and more pointedly whether his beliefs align with how the media characterize them.

These interviews are only possible by your support, so please do consider becoming a member of the True North Initiative, to get exclusive access to content like this before it’s made public, and also some extra goodies.

It’s illegal to defame Muhammad, European human rights court rules

If you dare to criticize the Islamic prophet Muhammad in Europe, prepare to pay for it. Literally.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that an Austrian woman broke the law in 2009 when she gave two seminars in which she accused Muhammad of being a pedophile, based on his marriage to Aisha.

Scholars say Aisha was likely six or seven years old at the time, though the marriage wasn’t consummated until she was nine or 10.

Despite the historic record, the ECHR decision, which upheld an earlier Austrian criminal court ruling, said the woman’s remarks go “beyond the permissible limits of an objective debate” and “could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace.”

As of press time, the ECHR had regretfully not been razed to the ground.

That’s the only solution I can propose for a body that so effortlessly brings back blasphemy law and codifies political correctness.

Understandably, Muslims aren’t keen on their prophet being mocked. I don’t blame them. As a Christian, I don’t like it when an artist tours the world with a crucifix soaked in urine. Freedom requires people of faith sucking it up when others don’t share their reverence.

Incidentally, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, so Muhammad hardly needs the public relations help from European judicial bureaucrats.

The perpetrator was fined €480 for the offence, and also had to pay for the proceedings against her. I can’t imagine that was all that cheap considering the case spanned for nine years.

Almost a decade to determine that free speech isn’t important. The woman tried to argue it was, but the ECHR said its decision “carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.”

You read that right. Religious feelings. The “feelings” of Muslims are more important than everyone’s fundamental right to criticize religion, or anything really.

The timing of this is interesting for me, having just returned from the United Kingdom where I was covering the case of Tommy Robinson, a vocal critic of Islamism. In an interview with Robinson, which will be published in the coming days, I challenged him on what I see as an uncomfortably broad brush he uses to define and characterize Islam.

The “Muhammad is a pedophile” argument is not a particularly new one from anti-Muslim activists. Muslims don’t dispute the timeline of Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, but do defend the union based on historical context and traditions that suggest it wasn’t atypical, disgusting as it is by today’s standards.

Today, it’s difficult to imagine anyone taking issue with you for calling a 50-something married to a seven-year old a pedophile. Hence the absurdity of the state—or in the case of the European Court of Human Rights, a judicial body above any one country—carving out special protection for Muhammad, or any religious figure.

What’s next, a fine for calling Buddha fat?

Part of free speech means not having to be civil, and not having to justify why you say something. And that doesn’t mean speech is always free of consequences, but in this case the court wasn’t even interested in whether there were any.

The ECHR said the woman’s comments “could” spark some sort of prejudice.

Criticizing Muhammad means you’re taking your life into your own hands, as numerous incidents have shown over the last 15 years. From threats against those involved in producing the infamous Danish cartoons to the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s office, blood has been shed for the right to be uncivil and offensive.

Now, if the terrorists don’t get you, the government will.

I overheard how reporters talk about Tommy Robinson

Before he walked into the Old Bailey for what was supposed to be a contempt of court hearing, Tommy Robinson said the media were the “enemy of the people.”

It was a line that got uproarious applause from the growing crowd of supporters.

I was inside at the time, with a front row seat to how some members of the press talk about Robinson when they think everyone agrees with them.

To be clear, and as I wrote Sunday, my working visit to the United Kingdom this week is out of a commitment to facts and fairness, not a support for Tommy Robinson. That open-mindedness wasn’t shared by at least two members of the media covering the case.

While I was preparing my own coverage before the judge’s arrival, two reporters were conversing behind me.

Both reporters—a man and a woman—were from the Press Association (PA), a British wire service. They aren’t columnists, but news reporters whose work fills the pages of publications across the United Kingdom.

I would normally not share details of private conservations—especially those in which I was not a part. In this case, the conversation was taking place surrounded by people, with no attempt to be discrete. The reporters just assumed everyone around them shared their worldview.

They mocked and chuckled at the “enemy of the people” comment, even asking a couple of arriving journalists from other outlets if they knew they were enemies of Britons.

Over the next few minutes, the bias became even more apparent.

The male reporter had seen commentator Ezra Levant outside and remarked to his colleague that Levant had apparently broken an unspecified law.

“He needs to be arrested,” he said in a markedly non-jovial tone. “He’s whipped up hate.”

The reporter didn’t extrapolate and his colleague didn’t respond.

Moments later, the female reporter said there was no ambiguity about Robinson’s guilt.

“He is in contempt of court,” she said. “There’s not really any doubt.”

Of course, when the presiding judge made the decision to refer the case to the attorney general, it was because he thought there actually was enough doubt and complexity to warrant a fuller hearing.

As the two reporters discussed the size of the crowd outside, they openly agreed to downplay it.

One of the reporters had been told by a member of the law enforcement team that there were at that point 1,500 people outside.

After some banter, the PA reporters agreed they would say “hundreds.” The reason was to not “give it credit,” the female said.

These quotes are direct and were transcribed either while they were being uttered or seconds later. They also didn’t come to be secondhand—I heard them myself.

A Press Association spokesperson said they are “inaccurate” and “misheard.”

“The Press Association is held to the highest standards on all aspects of its journalism by customers across the UK and the world.  Fairness and accuracy are the cornerstones of PA reporting, and our coverage of the Tommy Robinson case today is another example of these standards,” it said. “We decline to comment further on inaccurate and misleading accusations based on fragments of misheard, private conversations.”

Members of the media aren’t allowed to record court proceedings, so all I have to go on is my word. But a recording does exist. The courtroom’s official recording device had been turned on, so I will be working to get a copy of that audio.

There was a lot of hostility towards the media at the rally. One man, thinking I was a mainstream media reporter, dumped a bottle of water on me (and my laptop bag) while calling me “scum.” There’s no excuse for that conduct, regardless of intended target.

When I was filming the rally after the court appearance, one of the speakers (with whom I had shared my Press Association story) handed me the microphone and asked me to share it with the crowd.

Having never turned down a microphone in my life, I read the quotes to the attendees, who chanted about their disgust with the media. Some were downright nasty. While I understand the frustration, I don’t like painting an industry with one brush. Those who are letting their agendas get in the way of their coverage need to do better.

As a columnist, bias doesn’t faze me. Bias masquerading as journalism does.