Yesterday, after three trials lasting several months, twenty men were sentenced for their participation in a gang which groomed and sexually exploited girls as young as 11. The judge, Geoffrey Marson QC, had earlier told 16 of those men “The way you treated these girls defies understanding; this abuse was vile and wicked … As cases of sexual abuse with which the courts have to deal, this case comes top of the scale”.
As the BBC has reported, “At Leeds Crown Court, the ringleader, Amere Singh Dhaliwal, 35, was jailed for life with a minimum of 18 years … the judge told him: ‘The extent and gravity of your offending far exceeds anything which I have previously encountered … Children’s lives have been ruined and families profoundly affected by seeing their children, over months and years, out of control, having been groomed by you and other members of your gang’”. And the whole case could have been collapsed by one act of selfish idiocy.
That was the self-publicising intervention by Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, who rocked up at Leeds Crown Court and filmed several of the defendants. This could have collapsed the trial and let at least some of those now sentenced walk free. It would have been a monstrous disservice to the victims.
Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal, who was instrumental in getting the Rochdale grooming case to trial, told “Restrictions lifted so you can learn about the latest grooming trials in Huddersfield … My interviews will be broadcast … This was not the work of Tommy Robinson & his cohorts, his lot nearly derailed it again … It was the bravery of victims & professionals”. Quite. And many actual journalists had something to add.
Free sheet Metro reported “[Lennon] claimed the activities of the gang were being covered up because the offenders were of Asian origin. In reality, reporting of the case was only being postponed for … legal reasons … The restriction was put in place because the defendants were being dealt with in separate trials … reporting is sometimes postponed until the final case so jurors cannot be prejudiced by reading accounts of previous trials”.
And Yorkshire Post editor James Mitchinson devoted a comment item to Lennon’s ill-judged intervention titled “Why Tommy Robinson owes Huddersfield grooming gang victims an apology”. He pulls no punches: “As the accused faced their days in court, Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name Tommy Robinson, took to Facebook to broadcast live content which could have caused the trial to collapse. He did so under the auspices of being a champion of the people, effectively duping those who follow him into believing editors like me were covering up these repugnant crimes”. There was more.
“His narrative was that newspapers like The Yorkshire Post were too scared to tell the truth because the perpetrators are all Asian men. Now, as reporting restrictions are lifted, the truth stands there for all to see: Yaxley-Lennon put his own notoriety ahead of any thought for the only people that matter in this; the victims”. And more.
“In flouting the reporting restrictions he absolutely jeopardised their right to see punished the men who abused them in the most inhumane way imaginable. This newspaper has committed a journalist to proceedings every step of the way … knowing that the right time would eventually come to responsibly break the news. Now these men are jailed, the time is right to publish. It is also the right time for Yaxley-Lennon to apologise to the victims”.
And Matt Carr put it yet more directly. “This point can’t be made enough. It was made again and again when Robinson was arrested, and was totally ignored by his hero-cultists, who despite what they proclaim, have no interest in justice or in the victims, but only in using these vile crimes to whip up hatred”. He wasn’t finished.
“This shameless unscrupulous bastard nearly derailed the trial. He didn’t care. His followers didn’t care. His Fox News/Info Wars supporters didn’t care. Gert Wilders didn’t care. Katie [Hopkins] didn’t care. None of them gave a flying fuck … Instead they had the gall to present this self-aggrandising, publicity-seeking grifter as a martyr and a political prisoner. They compared him to Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi. In doing this they waded into the same sewer that he already inhabits”. Dead right.
He had this observation to add: “It’s a sewer where facts no longer exist, where truth is what they say it is, where justice does not depend on evidence but only on (their) opinion, where entire communities are tainted with the crimes of a few, where depraved criminality is presented as ‘jihad’ … It’s a sewer in which even survivors of sexual abuse like Sammy Woodhouse are attacked by those who supposedly care about them if they don’t blame these crimes on Muslims; where violations of the rule of law are presented as a state-directed conspiracy to silence the ‘truth’”. Got it in one.
Stephen Lennon also feeds off mistrust of the press - much of which is the fault of national titles which routinely propagandise, misrepresent, and when they feel the need for it, deal in wholesale falsehood. They, too, have contributed to Lennon’s rise.
But what the national titles do not do is to endanger criminal trials in the cavalier and reckless manner Lennon did in Leeds, and has been on the verge of doing elsewhere. As to his defence - that he was only reading out what the BBC had already reported - well, if that were true, what was he “exposing”? Nothing. Zilch. Zip. Bugger all.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon is not heroically trying to expose something that is being covered up. His actions could have denied justice to victims of the most vile abuse. Yet when he rocks up at the Old Bailey next week - no doubt with his faithful followers in tow - he will claim the mantle of heroic truth-seeker and victim of establishment crackdown. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is neither, and nor will he ever be.
It’s time for the Tommy Robinson myth to finally meet reality. And that reality is that he is a cheap thug and career criminal who has exposed no wrongdoing, secured no convictions, but used others’ suffering to enrich himself. He should hang his head in shame.
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