Tommy Robinson has lost a libel case that was brought against him by a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked in the school playground
Robinson, the founder of the far-right English Defence League, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, had been sued by Jamal Hijazi, who was assaulted in the playground of Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield in October 2018.
Shortly after the video of the incident had gone viral, Mr Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.
In the clips that were viewed by nearly one million people, the 38-year-old had also claimed Jamal “beat a girl black and blue” and “threatened to stab” another boy at his school, allegations that the teenager has denied.
At a four-day trial for the case back in April, Jamal’s lawyers said that Tommy Robinson’s comments had “a devastating effect” upon the young schoolboy, as well as on his family who had come to the UK as refugees from Homs, in Syria.
This comes after approximately a further 428,000 people had been contacted by NHS Test and Trace contact tracers in England after being pinged by the app and told to self-isolate in the week up to the 14th of July, with 259,265 people having tested positive.
Mr Robinson, who represented himself at the trial, argued that his comments in the Facebook videos were substantially true, claiming to have “uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour” by Jamal.
However, in a judgment that was delivered on Thursday, Mr Justice Nicklin ruled in Jamal’s favour, granting him £100,000 in damages.
Catrin Evans QC, the kegak representative for Jamal, previously said that the former EDL leadr’s comments led to the teenager “facing death threats and extremist agitation” and that he should instead receive damages of between the sums of £150,000 and £190,000.
During the trial, Ms Evans had described Mr Robinson as “a well-known extreme-right advocate” who has an “anti-Muslim agenda” and used social media platforms as a way to spread his views.
She added that Mr Robinson’s videos had “turned Jamal into the aggressor and the bully into a righteous white knight”.
However, Tommy Robinson maintained that he was an independent journalist during the trial, telling the court: “The media simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth.”
A hearing will follow Thursday’s judgment to consider the consequences of the ruling.
Jamal Hijazi’s lawyers have welcomed Mr Justice Nicklin’s judgment in favour of the 18-year-old.
Francesca Flood, from Burlingtons Legal, said: “It took great courage for our client, Jamal Hijazi, to pursue his libel action against such a prominent far-right and anti-Islam activist as Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson.
“We are delighted that Jamal has been entirely vindicated.
“Jamal and his family now wish to put this matter behind them in order that they can get on with their lives.
“They do however wish to extend their gratitude to the Great British public for their support and generosity, without which this legal action would not have been possible.”
This comes after billionaire Jeff Bezos has thanked his Amazon employees, as well as customers for paying for his leisure voyage to space, but his remarks have since prompted criticism from many, including politicians and celebrities.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Nicklin said Jamal Hijazi suffered “particularly severe” consequences due to Tommy Robinson’s videos.
He said: “The defendant’s allegations against the claimant were very serious and were published widely. The defendant has admitted that their publication has caused serious harm to the claimant’s reputation.”
Discussing the media attention that was on the original viral video, he added: “The defendant’s contribution to this media frenzy was a deliberate effort to portray the claimant as being, far from an innocent victim, but in fact a violent aggressor.
“Worse, the language used in the first and second videos was calculated to inflame the situation.
“As was entirely predictable, the claimant then became the target of abuse which ultimately led to him and his family having to leave their home, and the claimant to have to abandon his education.
“The defendant is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which, particularly the impact on the claimant’s education, are likely last for many years, if not a lifetime.”
Mr Justice Nicklin continued: “The defendant took on the burden of proving his allegations to be true. He has failed.
“In reality, and for the reasons I have explained, his evidence fell woefully short.
“He has, however, persisted with the serious allegations he originally made, and has even added to them during the proceedings.
“The claimant has had to face them in the full glare and publicity of a High Court trial.
“It is my responsibility to make clear that the defendant has failed in his defence of truth, to vindicate the claimant and to award him a sum in damages that represents fair compensation. The sum I award is £100,000.”