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Tommy Robinson loses defamation case

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Tommy Robinson whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is the founder of the English Defence League and a prominent anti-Islam activist. He has lost his libel case brought against him by Jamal Hijazi, a Syrian schoolboy. Robinson failed in the defence of truth.

In October 2018, Jamal Hijazi was attacked in a school playground in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The incident was filmed and released online. After the video went ‘viral’, Tommy Robinson falsely claimed in Facebook videos that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English Girls in his school”. Robinson also claimed that Jamal “threatened to stab” a boy at his school and “beat a girl black and blue”. Robinson’s videos were viewed by almost one million people. Jamal, now 18, denied Robinson’s allegations.

On 22 July 2021, Mr Justice Nicklin handed down judgment in Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon [2021] EWHC 2008 (QB).

Justice Nicklin stated that Robinson’s allegations against Jamal “were very serious and published widely”. Robinson admitted that the publications “caused serious harm to Jamal’s reputation”. Justice Nicklin stated that the viral video “rightly portrayed Jamal as the victim in the playing field incident”. Robinson’s “contribution to this media frenzy was a deliberate effort to portray Jamal 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, Jamal then became the target of abuse which ultimately led to him and his family having to leave their home, and Jamal to have to abandon his education.” Robinson “is responsible for this harm, some of the scars of which, particularly the impact on Jamal’s education, are likely to last for many years, if not a lifetime”.

When considering the damages award, Justice Nicklin stated the most “significant element” of the award “will be the need for vindication”. Justice Nicklin said that Robinson “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 He has, however, persisted with the serious allegations he originally made, and has even added to them during the proceedings”.

Justice Nicklin ordered Robinson to pay Jamal the sum of £100,000 in damages.

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