Tommy Robinson has been jailed for 13 months for potentially prejudicing a court case. His supporters are outraged. This is an attack of free speech, they claim. Free Tommy, they demand.
Yet the reality is not as the former English Defence League leader’s supporters perceive it. They claim he has been sent down for revealing the truth. In truth, he was jailed for potentially prejudicing an ongoing court case. This amounts to contempt of court. On top of this, he was already subject to a suspended sentence for a separate contempt of course case.
Robinson’s actions in recording himself outside the court were simply idiotic. He should have been well aware of the consequences of his actions, particularly due to the previous suspended sentence. When he was given that sentence the judge warned him that further offences would result in him going to prison.
In calling for his release, supporters of Tommy Robinson are effectively asking for the disregard of the rule of law. No matter whether they agree with him or not, it is deeply harmful to act as he has done.
If a court case is prejudiced by the actions of someone like Robinson, it may have to be re-run. This represents a burden of many thousands of pounds on the taxpayer. Worse still, it is possible that it becomes impossible for a conviction to be obtained as a result of the influence. In this case, that would go directly against the wishes of Robinson and his supporters.
Supporters of the controversial figure also argue that he was being censored when his arrest was not reported in the media. Instead, it was a restriction placed in order to ensure that the arrest did not prejudice the trial. Such restrictions are common in such situations.
This is not to say that there is not a free speech issue in the UK. Police forces increasingly spend their limited resources on arresting people for hate speech or tracking down online trolls. Such uses of taxpayer funds are not, in my view, beneficial to society or remotely worthwhile. Indeed, the extent of hate speech laws and similar laws is ridiculous.
Just because a person agrees with Tommy Robinson on his political views – although I do not – it does not mean that they should blindly demand his release from prison. He broke an important law which ensures an effective judicial system can operate in the UK. Without such laws, courts would be susceptible to all kinds of abuse and other problems.
In short, stop defending Tommy Robinson. Britain may well have a free speech problem, but his arrest is most certainly not a part of it.