‘I asked and said I’d pay for information to find Lizzie Dearden,’ English Defence Leader founder tells court
Tommy Robinson hired a private investigator to find out the address of an Independent journalist who was working on an article about him, a court has heard.
The English Defence League (EDL) founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, turned up at Lizzie Dearden’s home after she contacted him over an investigation into claims he misappropriated donations from his supporters.
Robinson appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday regarding an application for a stalking protection order following the incident.
He told the court he “panicked” after seeing the email giving him the right to reply over a weekend, due to its deadline.
“I contacted a private investigator,” he said. “And I asked, and said I’d pay, for information to find Lizzie Dearden.”
He explained that he did this as “the email stated if I didn’t respond by Monday morning they would run with the story”.
Robinson went to the home of The Independent’s home affairs and security correspondent, Ms Dearden, and her boyfriend Samuel Partridge shortly before 10pm on 17 January this year.
Robinson, who told the court he relies on filming footage of himself due to social media bans, said the plan was to record himself giving Ms Dearden “all of the evidence”, claiming her article relied on an “unreliable source” and that the allegations were untrue.
Asked why he simply did not reply to the email or publish a written response, he said his videos gain traction.
“A visual video of me, giving the evidence to the journalist, and her still reporting lies, would get shared,” the EDL founder told the court.
Ryan Dowding, representing the Metropolitan Police, told the court that “over time” Robinson “became fixated” on the journalist.
“So fixated, that rather than simply respond to her standard right to reply email or ask for more time, he decided to pay a PI to obtain information about Ms Dearden, including her address, and to attend that address at 10pm on a Sunday night.”
The court heard how Ms Dearden emailed Robinson on the afternoon of Friday 15 January to ask for a comment for an article by the morning of Monday 18 January.
Alex di Francesco, representing Robinson, told the court the deadline was “unreasonably short”.
Robinson told the court: “As soon as I saw the email, I felt sick. I was scared. I was worried. I knew what was coming with regards to what the headlines would say.”
After finding out Ms Dearden’s address, Robinson said a friend drove him for around an hour to reach her home.
“The timing, unfortunately, I had until the next morning to do this,” he told the court. “Otherwise the whole world was going to be told lies about me. I had no choice but to go at that time.”
Robinson said he went to McDonalds after failing to meet with the journalist.
Ms Dearden, who gave evidence remotely last week, said she was “too frightened” to go down to speak to Robinson when he was outside her home.
“From what I could hear on the intercom and through the street, he sounded very angry and agitated,” she told the court.
Mr Dowding previously told the court that during Robinson’s time outside Ms Dearden’s home there was “shouting about Mr Partridge, claiming he was a paedophile”, adding: “There were then threats to come back every day if he needed to.”
On Thursday, Mr Dowding described the allegation about Mr Partridge as “baseless” and “nonsense”, and put it to Robinson that he knew the allegation was “completely unsubstantiated”.
Robinson said the allegation came in a comment from “an unreliable source” in a “research group” used to find out information.
Deputy chief magistrate Tan Ikram agreed to impose an interim order in March ahead of the full application for a stalking protection order.
On Thursday, Mr Ikram said he will give his judgment on a future date to be fixed.
The interim order will remain in place until 13 October unless it is revoked before that date.
Additional reporting by Press Association