Bear with me – we need to look at the facts before reaching a conclusion.
On 8 May 2017, Tommy attended a rape trial for Defendants at Canterbury Crown Court and attempted to film the Defendants for a social media broadcast. Court staff reminded him of Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925:-
no person shall take or attempt to take in any Court any photograph, or with a view to publication make or attempt to make in any Court any portrait or sketch, of any person, [the sketches you see in the newspaper and on the TV are made outside the Court form memory] being a Judge of the Court or a juror or a witness in or party to any proceedings before the Court, whether civil or criminal ….. etc.
I don’t know Canterbury Crown Court but there are normally abundant notices around the Court warning people not to make any type of recording.
He refused to stop and was brought before the Judge of that trial. Here is the Judgement:-
You will see on Page 7 of her judgement, the Judge says that this is not about freedom of speech but about ensuring a fair trial and not prejudicing the jury.
The Judge sentenced Tommy to three months’ imprisonment and suspended it for 18 months and told him: –
you should be under no illusions that if you commit any further offence of any kind, and that would include, I would have thought a further contempt of Court by similar actions, then that sentence of three months would be activated ….
On the 25 May 2018, Tommy attended Leeds Crown Court to report on another trial and live streamed a Facebook video in which he named the Defendants referring to their religion and what they had been alleged to do.
At the time he knew that a “postponement” order was in place – Section 4 (2) Contempt of Court Act 1981;
in any … proceedings the Court may, where it appears to be necessary for avoiding a substantial risk of prejudice to the administration of justice in those proceedings … order that the publication of any report of the proceedings … be postponed for such period as the Court thinks necessary …
Such a postponement order is normally made in situations where Defendants are facing multiple trials. For example if a Defendant is charged with three rapes which will be heard at three different trials, there would probably be postponement on reporting until the last verdict – so the Juries in Trials 2 and 3 were not prejudiced by the result of Trial 1.
Tommy was again brought before the Judge for contempt, which he admitted to, but was sentenced to 13 months – 10 months for the “Leeds offence,” and the three months for the “Canterbury offence.”
Tommy appealed to the High Court who quashed both convictions for procedural reasons:-
and remitted the matter to be heard before a different Judge and granted Tommy conditional bail pending the rehearing.
The Court was mostly concerned about the 5-hour gap between Tommy’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment for contempt, which was too short for it to be clearly seen that justice had been done – i.e. he didn’t have enough time to prepare for hearing.
At the re-hearing on the 5 July 2019, two High Court Judges at the Old Bailey found Tommy in breach of the reporting ban and have released him on bail. He has now been sentenced to 9 months.
It’s interesting to note that Tommy admitted being in contempt at Canterbury and admitted being in breach of the reporting restrictions at Leeds.
In both cases he was interfering in a live criminal trial and the Judges were seriously worried he was going to collapse those trials. It really has nothing to do with any “establishment” cover up. The trials are open to the public and reporters attended them. They were just unable to report them at the time.
I’m concerned that someone admitting interfering in criminal trials – effectively driving a coach and horses through “innocent until proved guilty” – can ride on a social media wave of “free speech” and “cover up” – has the world gone completely mad?