This isn't, and never has been, about "free speech"—whatever the right sayby Sam Moore / August 2, 2018 / Leave a comment
The offence of contempt of court to which Tommy Robinson plead guilty, and today’s Court of Appeal judgement in his favour, has been discussed through the lens of certain rights.
To begin with, there were some—mostly those on the far-right—making it about Robinson’s right to free speech. Now, with his contempt of court judgement being quashed, it is about the right to a fair trial. Robinson’s solicitors have certainly framed it in this way, releasing a statement that says “the rule of law and right to a fair hearing are fundamental to every individual and this ruling is an example of the safeguards in our system.”
That’s what this appeal is really about. Judicial procedure, and the right to a fair hearing. The judgement from the appeal Court of Appeal says as much, with its conclusion declaring that the court moved at a speed that was “inappropriate.”
The conclusions of the appeal mention nothing about Robinson’s right to free speech, instead stating that “the haste with which the contempt proceedings were conducted led to an inability of counsel to mitigate fully on the appellant’s behalf.”
But, looking at the way the right are responding to this judgement paints an entirely different picture.
This isn’t about Robinson
Right-wing commentator and self-described “rebel commander” Ezra Levant filmed and uploaded a short video outside of the appeal court earlier this morning. In the video, there is no mention of the actual charge of contempt of court, or the procedural basis of Robinson’s partially-successful appeal.
Instead, the focused is placed on Robinson, with Levant concluding “the big headline: Tommy Robinson won.”
The right are twisting an issue of legal procedure until it is unrecognisable, then replacing it with an alternative story—one which is about a battle over political correctness and free speech. In this narrative, the suggestion is that Robinson was imprisoned for what he said, rather than for the impact that it may have had on the trial that he was commenting.
Rather than any question of law or legal procedure, this puts Tommy Robinson at the centre of the story, allowing his supporters to act as if free speech itself was on trial—even though this was never called into question.
This twisting of the facts, what some might even…