Under his real name of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Tommy Robinson – a Luton Town fan – sued for harassment, discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and breaches of Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the European Convention relating to events after an away game in Cambridge in August 2016.
Police, using their powers under s.35 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, dispersed him from a pub to the railway station when rival Luton and Cambridge “risk” supporters, having clashed earlier in the day, were in two pubs about 500 metres apart. He claimed that he was with friends (and his children), not Luton risk supporters, and that he had been specifically targeted and discriminated against because of his views on extreme Islam.
The Judge rejected that fundamental premise because there was simply no evidence to support it, and because a Luton spotter told the Cambridgeshire officers that, whilst he thought that the claimant was not an individual risk, he was with Luton risk supporters, contradicting directly what the claimant had said in evidence.
The case raises two points of interest. First, the correct legal test for reasonable grounds to suspect the likelihood of members of the public being harassed, or of disorder, for the purposes of s.35 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. There is no appellate authority on the issue. The claimant submitted that the correct approach was to apply the stop and search criteria. That is unlikely to be right, with the scheme of the Act more akin to the legality of an arrest – adopting a two stage test – and as considered recently by Sir Brian Leveson P in Parker v Chief Constable of Essex Police  12 WLUK 154 (the Michael Barrymore case).
Secondly, it raised the issue of social media reporting boundaries. A Canadian media personality and claimant supporter, Ezra Levant, flew in to cover the case and was granted permission by the Judge to tweet live. He not only commented on evidence already given in an inflammatory and potentially defamatory way but, in one instance – and wholly inaccurately – offered a prediction as to what a witness, yet to give evidence, might say. He was taken by the Judge to the Contempt of Court Act on more than one occasion.
The claimant was ordered to pay costs of £20,000 by the judge. In a post-trial interview, Mr Yaxley-Lennon has said that he “will appeal” the judgment. Whether he seeks permission remains to be seen.