‘Tommy Robinson’ and the Boys in Blue
Those close to the EDL founder claim that police officers often expressed sympathy for his right-wing politics, but Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu reveal that the support could include the passing on of confidential information.
Caolan Robertson, the video producer who helped ‘Tommy Robinson’ change his image and boost his earnings on YouTube, attended dozens of events with the right-wing activist from the time they first met in early 2017. And, on most occasions, Robertson claims, police in attendance expressed support.
Often that support was tacit, conveyed in winks or smiles. But, on more than one occasion, Robertson says police officers vocally expressed sympathy for Robinson’s politics.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has various criminal convictions including assault, using false travel documents and mortgage fraud and is currently serving a prison sentence for contempt of court. He was wary and often paranoid about his local Bedfordshire Police, according to his former filmmaker. But rank-and-file officers in other forces were often more sympathetic.
“Most police are right-leaning” and “the worst people are the f*cking lefties”Police officer
“He would always say that when he got arrested the police would say ‘sorry Tommy we have to do this’ and they would apologise,” Robertson told Byline Times. “Whenever we turned up at [events] there were a lot of police winking at us.”
At a pro-Brexit event in 2017, Robertson says a uniformed officer even took him aside and said of Robinson: “He likes to have a conversation but people refuse to have a conversation with him.”
In a recording heard by Byline Times, the police officer also says: “They just call him a racist” and “the Americans have real constitutional freedom of speech going, the problem with this, here, is that public perception is to support the left-wing and the left-wing are fascist”. The officer continues: “Most police are right-leaning” and “the worst people are the f*cking lefties”.
A year later, in the spring of 2018, Robertson claims a “very high-ranking” officer coordinating the control of another right-wing public event suggested to him “you should do something for Donald Trump’s visit”.
Though he had often been told by Robinson that he had silent police support in the ranks, Robertson was shocked to actually witness officers speaking up. “Tommy would always say the police are on-side – the majority of the police in the whole of the UK,” Robertson told Byline Times. “But it was weird seeing it.”
Robertson claims that this sympathy extended to the Prison Service too and that Robinson claimed he had the support of prison officers during his first stint in jail, with prison staff congratulating him and saying that he shouldn’t be there.
Byline Times has also heard disturbing accounts claiming that police officers went beyond personal opinions to actively supporting Robinson’s campaigns by providing confidential details of his targets.
One of the earliest projects Robertson worked on with Robinson, under the auspices of the Canadian right-wing media channel Rebel Media, was TrollWatch. It began when Robinson and his film crew tracked down a student, who had said on Twitter that Robinson should be “murdered”, to his family home and then to a local bar to confront him.
Accompanied by his film crew, Robinson then targeted a journalist at Wales Online and a Quilliam researcher who had written about him in the Guardian.
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“If you call me a Nazi, if you call me a racist, all of these things I’m not. I’m none of those things,” Robinson told his YouTube audience in the videos posted online. Though the format had elements of Michael Crick’s famous ‘doorstepping’ for Channel 4 News, there was also an explicit threat to anyone who wrote about him: “If you’re a journalist,” Robinson warned “and think your office or home is a safe space, it’s not.”
One of Robinson’s targets was Tim Fenton, who pens the Zelo Street blog. He had written only twice in eight years about Robinson but, in 2017, James Delingpole wrote a piece for the Spectator magazine: ‘Tommy isn’t that Hateful’. Fenton published a response: ‘Spectator Endorses Far-Right Bigot’.
Two weeks later, Robinson and his video crew drove 300 miles from London and turned up late in the evening at his house in Crewe. When Fenton backed off at the bright lights, Robinson kept knocking until a police officer arrived.
Beyond the intimidatory visit, one mystery has always remained about this episode. Throughout, Robinson refers to Fenton as ‘Paul’. Fenton told Byline Times that, since childhood, he has always been known by his second name – Timothy. Paul – his first given name – is not on any public database, but remains on his medical records.
“Judges are the most difficult to find,” Robertson says he recalls Robinson saying. “You’ve got to pay a grand to find their addresses”
According to Tommy Robinson’s filmmaker, the English Defence League founder had access to confidential records via a police source when public searches failed.
Byline Times has been unable to independently verify Robertson’s claims and could not approach Robinson as he is currently unavailable for comment.
On two occasions, Robertson and another witness claim that they heard Robinson claim he had a police contact who procured confidential information on potential targets who he would pay in cash in an envelope – between £250 and £500 for each address.
Robertson claims the contact went back several years when the far-right activist was looking for the address of a judge involved in a court case involving Muslim defendants. “Judges are the most difficult to find,” Robertson says he recalls Robinson saying. “You’ve got to pay a grand to find their addresses.”
Both witnesses say they recall Robinson boasting about this “police contact” from his EDL days and saying that his contact could obtain “medical records” and had access to the “police database”. When Robertson asked to meet the contact, however, he says that Robinson refused.
“The police should be protecting those who obey the law – not those who break it,” Tim Fenton told Byline Times.