Updated Thursday 7 Mar 2024

CASE FILE: Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson)

a picture of far right thug Tommy Robinson looking angry
Name Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson)
Tags Anti-Migrant and Anti-Muslim
Categories Independent Activist
Related People/Groups
Years Active 2009 – Present
Active Areas UK



Stephen Lennon remains the best-known far-right extremist in Britain. In the last five years he has been dogged by legal, health and personal problems and now splits his time between the UK and Spain.

Despite being less influential than he once was, he remains a high profile figure in the UK and had something of a resurgence in 2023.  

The English Defence League 

Lennon burst onto the far-right scene with the launch of the the English Defence League (EDL) in the summer of 2009 following the amalgamation of a number of smaller anti-Muslim street groups, including United People of Luton (UPL) and the British Citizens Against Muslim Extremists (also founded in 2009). The UPL was set up by local football hooligans in response to an al-Muhajiroun demonstration against the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment. The leaders of the UPL, including Lennon, were invited to London and, during a meeting with the funder Alan Ayling and his friends, the idea of a national organisation emerged.

Counter-jihadists: Robert Spencer, Kevin Carroll, Pamela Geller, Stephen Lennon (Tommy Robinson)

 Once formed into the EDL the group quickly grew, garnering headlines for its often-violent demonstrations in towns and cities with visible Muslim communities. By July 2010, it had formalised into a proper network with regional divisions headed by organisers. The group also launched faith-based Defence Leagues under the Jewish, Hindu and Sikh banners and a tiny LGBT division. Unsurprisingly, the demonstrations attracted activists from across the far right.

The EDL also developed an international strategy and networks, establishing links with like-minded “counter-jihad” organisations in mainland Europe and North America, including neo-conservative organisations and the anti-Islam wing of the Tea Party movement in the United States. For a period it became a prominent player on the international counter-jihad scene and was lauded by supporters around the world. There was also a semi-formal network of international Defence Leagues, though most were stillborn or failed to have any real impact. 

However, the EDL’s growth and success was short-lived and the movement peaked during a demonstration in Luton in February 2011 that attracted 3,000 people. Following this highpoint, the movement went into a slow and uneven decline. The repetitiveness of endless demonstrations, coupled with the leadership’s crackdown on violence, hooliganism and alcohol as well as the police decision to increasingly deny access to town centres and move demonstrations to isolated periphery sites, reduced the atmosphere and excitement of events. What followed was a downward spiral as ever smaller demonstrations increased internal tensions and infighting, seeing many EDL activists break away to form their own groups or quit the movement entirely. The murder of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013 provided a brief pause in their downward trajectory but despite their best efforts to capitalise on the tragedy they achieved little more than the swelling of social media numbers and a few larger demonstrations. The final hammer blow came in October 2013 when Lennon and his cousin and deputy Kevin Carroll stood down as leaders.

Return to the Streets  

After several less active years, Lennon returned to street activism in 2015 when he became involved with the launch of Pegida UK, a British branch of the group founded in Dresden, Germany. The group initially launched in Newcastle in 2015 and then relaunched in Birmingham on 6 February 2016. Fewer than 200 people made the journey to the Midlands with the demonstrators being outnumbered by police. The march started in the car park of the Birmingham International train station and crawled along empty roads before finishing at an industrial estate. Lennon addressed the event and much of the audience were former EDL activists. 

PEGIDA UK rally in Newcastle February 2015

The group was a total failure and soon collapsed, convincing Lennon that he needed to pursue his activism with other tactics. In early 2017, he became involved with the Canadian far-right website Rebel News. It was during this period that he started to identify as a “journalist”. 

His reporting landed him in trouble when in May 2018, he was arrested for livestreaming outside a court case at Leeds Crown Court. He was found in contempt of court and sentenced to prison. This was by no means his first stint in prison, having been found guilty of assault in 2005, for entering the US on false travel documents in 2012 and for mortgage fraud in 2014. 

His initial imprisonment in 2018 spawned the “Free Tommy” movement. That year there were a series of demonstrations that were at least double the size of any EDL demonstration, with the “Free Tommy” demonstration in June attracting around 15,000 people. While ostensibly about Lennon’s imprisonment, the narrative advanced by his own supporters was very much that he had been incarcerated for “telling the truth” about Islam and Muslims.  

international far right "free Tommy robinson" protest outside Westminster Palace, London
A”Free Tommy” protest in London, 2018.

Despite the demonstrations, it was a tough period for Lennon who was removed from major social media platforms, faced a humiliating defeat as a European election candidate and endless legal woes.


In October 2018, Lennon produced a video accusing a young refugee, Jamal Hijazi, of being a violent school bully. This came shortly after footage went viral of Jamal being pinned to the ground and having water poured over him. Jamal vehemently denied the allegation and instructed lawyers to begin legal action against Lennon. In April 2019, papers were served.

Lennon doubled down and continued to make false allegations against Jamal. His legal team urged him to settle, explaining to him that his chances of winning the libel case were slim. Lennon refused their advice, sacked them and publicly announced that he would stand by his original claims but also stated that he had no intention of paying Jamal a penny if he lost.

With legal costs mounting and a strong likelihood that he would lose the libel case, Lennon set in motion a plan to avoid paying up. On 3 February 2021, he and his wife divorced. A month later, and just six weeks before the case was due to be held in the High Court, he declared himself bankrupt. As predicted, Lennon lost the case and the judge ordered him to pay Jamal £100,000 in damages and all reasonable legal costs.

This wasn’t Lennon’s only legal trouble in 2021. In October, he was given a five-year stalking protection order, after he went to the property of a journalist from The Independent back in January. Lennon was attempting to stop the publication of an article outlining damaging revelations about his misuse of donations from far-right supporters, but failed and the article was released in March. During the trial it emerged that Lennon hired an investigator to unearth private information on the journalist and had spread unsubstantiated claims about her partner.

‘The Rape of Britain’ 

In January 2022, Lennon released the first in a series of documentaries about the issue of on-street grooming in Telford. The film told the harrowing story of one young woman who had been sexually abused by several men. As well as naming those men, Lennon also accused the now-retired police officer in charge of the overall grooming investigation in the town of corruption and colluding with the groomers to ensure they were not brought to justice.

Tommy Robinson in Telford


He organised his first demonstration in some years with a screening outside Telford police station, which attracted roughly 1,500 people. Over the year he released four documentaries about the issue via his media outlet Urban Scoop. He also staged three demonstrations in the town centre, screening his films in January, May and September. Lennon was bitterly disappointed with the performance of the documentaries, which resulted in almost no traction beyond the confines of the far right. The series of demonstrations he held were also woefully attended, with the May and September events attracting just 3-400 people. This failed campaign highlighted Lennon’s decline from the days when he could attract thousands to the streets, and demonstrates the damage that his deplatforming from mainstream social media platforms had on his reach and impact.

In April, Lennon joined the anti-Muslim For Britain party and called on his sizeable email list to join and “build a political force”. However, his promise to tour the country to drum up support never materialised, and the move proved controversial among sections of its membership. As such, Lennon remained an independent activist for the rest of the year.

Anne Marie Waters and Stephen Lennon

Lennon in 2023

2023 was another difficult year for Lennon, though he is more high-profile than he has been in some time. 

When Lennon lost his case against Jamal Hijazi, the court also placed an injunction on him which stopped him from publishing a long-trailed, self-produced documentary about the case. He was categorically told that if repeated his libellous claims about a Syrian refugee schoolboy he could face prison. For the next two years, Lennon festered, increasingly furious and embarrassed that he had so publicly lost the case. However, in May last year the pressure became too much and he released the film before moving to Spain.

Not content with repeating his libellous claims piecemeal on various podcasts, Lennon had long been exploring ways to release the whole film in a way that he hoped might look like an accident. On 1 April, a new MICE Media version of Silenced was premiered by Lennon in Copenhagen at a meeting in the Danish Parliament, hosted by the Danish People’s Party and The Free Press Society. 

The Copenhagen screening may have been the film’s world premiere, but there was still a lot to do before it could be released on the internet. At some point, Lennon and Bryn Davis from MICE Media agreed to meet in person to finalise arrangements. In keeping with Lennon’s lavish lifestyle, it seems they agreed to meet in the Bahamas. A HOPE not hate investigation worked out that Lennon had travelled to the island via Havana. While in Cuba, Lennon filmed a new clip for Silenced while sitting outside the 4* hotel in which he begged supporters for money. From Cuba, Lennon made his way to Freeport, the main city on Grand Bahama, the closest island to Florida.

After the gathering in the Bahamas things moved fast. On 21 May, MICE Media announced it would release the film in four days. Just 25 minutes later, at 1:58am, Urban Scoop, the media company Lennon works for, sent out an email to its supporters responding to the tweet. Laughably the email claimed, “it’s not me publishing it,” and that, “I do not support the release of the film. […] I have said openly and publicly that I did not want this documentary to be made public, in line with the injunction laid down by the courts. Even if I do not agree with the court order, I do respect the law.” His explanation was that “it has been circulating among journalists since its creation”.

As HOPE not hate has shown, these claims are absurd. Lennon was intricately involved in collaborating with MICE Media to release his libellous film. Despite making these claims, Lennon eagerly set about promoting the film’s release on his various social media platforms. Another Urban Scoop email explained that, “When it can be accessed, we will let our supporters know where they can watch and share it.”

Since the film’s release, Lennon has appeared on numerous podcasts and been interviewed by a number of media outlets. While he has repeatedly claimed to have no knowledge of, or involvement in, the film’s release, he has praised the airing of it and repeated his libellous claims about Hijazi.

Since the release of the film and aware of the possibility of his arrest for contempt of court, Lennon has spent long periods hiding in a luxury, six-bedroom, seven-bathroom mansion in south-eastern Spain worth over £1.3 million. He has flown over a series of friends and fellow far-right activists to keep him company during his self-imposed exile. He also launched a new podcast series that has failed to gain any real traction. 

Tommy Robinson and Gavin Mcinnes

HOPE not hate launched a campaign to get justice and we submitted an extensive dossier to the Attorney General, calling on them to bring contempt of court proceedings against Lennon for his blatant breach of the injunction. Following our submission, in November, the Attorney General notified Lennon that he faces prosecution and could face up to two years in prison. 

Towards the end of the year, Lennon hit the headlines again after returning to the UK and calling his supporters onto the streets. Following the start of the war in Israel/Palestine, London saw enormous pro-Palestine demonstrations in October and November. When one was planned to happen on Armistice Day anger spread, whipped up by then home secretary Suella Braverman, that Palestine supporters could attack war memorials in London. 

Having had his account reinstated on X (formerly Twitter), Lennon used his return to the platform to call on his supporters to defend the Cenotaph in Westminster. On the day a mixture of Lennon supporters and football hooligan gangs descended on London resulting in violent clashes with the police. However, Lennon was widely criticised after jumping in a taxi and fleeing from the scene while many of those he mobilised were arrested. 

Tommy Robinson at the Cenotaph Protest

Later that month Lennon turned up in London again, this time to attend a rally against antisemitism. Despite the organisers of the event making it clear he was not welcome he still tried to turn up on the day. However, he was soon arrested and charged with failing to comply with an order excluding him from the area of the march. He spent the night in prison and was bailed until January 2024.



“State of HATE 2024: Pessimism, Decline, and the Rising Radical Right” is available now. This guide offers the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of far-right extremism in Britain today. Secure your free copy now.



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