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Syrian refugee attack: Family plan to sue Tommy Robinson over allegations against teenage victim

English Defence League founder makes series of allegations about ‘Muslim violence’ in angry Facebook posts

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 29 November 2018 19:13 GMT
Almondbury Community School as 16-year-old boy charged with assault over attack on 15-year-old Syrian refugee at school

The family of a Syrian boy who was attacked at school say they will sue Tommy Robinson over allegations against the victim.

The anti-Islam activist claimed the 15-year-old boy was involved in a separate attack on a girl at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield.

In a series of angry Facebook videos and posts, Robinson used the alleged incident to claim “lots of Muslim gangs are beating up white English kids” in Britain.

One of the photos used by the English Defence League founder as supposed proof of violence at the same school was stolen from a 2017 news article on a teenage cancer patient from Surrey.

Tasnime Akunjee, who represents the attacked boy and his family, told The Independent his client “had nothing to do with the attack [on the girl] at all”.

“These are clearly defamatory comments made by Tommy so we’re pursuing that,” he added.

“We will be communicating with Robinson and we will be taking legal action.”

It came after a 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was summonsed to court over the attack on the Syrian boy.

The headmaster of Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield said the situation was ‘being taken extremely seriously’ (PA)

“He has been reported for summons, for an offence of assault,” a spokesperson for West Yorkshire Police said. “He will appear at youth court in due course.”

The suspect had shared numerous posts from Robinson’s Facebook account in recent months, as well as from Britain First and other far-right accounts.

Robinson’s page has more than one million followers and his posts on the Huddersfield incident have been viewed up to 900,000 times each.

The 35-year-old, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is waiting to see whether the attorney general will continue a case against him for alleged contempt of court that saw him jailed earlier this year.

Since being freed on appeal over procedural failings, he has been attempting to crowdfund his activism but was hit by a ban from Paypal and has postponed a lucrative tour of Australia.

Footage of the school attack, which has been widely shared on social media, showed the 15-year-old victim being dragged to the floor by his neck before having water forced in his mouth.

Police said the incident happened on 25 October at Almondbury Community School and was reported the day after, adding: “The victim and his family are receiving ongoing support from police and other agencies.”

The Independent understands that the boy will appear at Leeds Youth Court but a date has not yet been set.

Police appealed to members of the public not to share footage of the alleged assault on social media as it could prejudice criminal proceedings.

They said an unconnected assault on the same victim on 7 October, where his wrist was reportedly broken, was fully investigated at the time.

Three boys were interviewed by police but they took action and the matter was referred to the school.

The latest incident has provoked an outpouring of anger and sympathy for the Syrian boy and his relatives, with well-wishers so far donating more than £130,000 for the family on a crowdfunding page.

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, said he had been supporting the family and added: “I will be following up to ensure all available support is being given.”

A spokesperson for Kirklees Council said: “Neither us nor the school condone violence in any form and behaviour like this will not be tolerated.”

In a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, Almondbury Community School headteacher Trevor Bowen said the situation was “being taken extremely seriously”.

“The safety and welfare of students is our number one priority,“ he added. “We must allow the legal process to take its course, but I want to be absolutely clear that we do not tolerate unacceptable behaviour of any sort in our school.

“I can also assure you that we are working very hard to ensure it is ‘business as usual’ across the school and that there is no disruption to the children’s education. The wellbeing of students is of paramount importance to us and a high level of support is available to anyone who may need it.”

MPs and campaigners have said physical and verbal attacks are increasing in Britain amid a “toxic environment” around Brexit.

Tell Mama, a national project that records anti-Muslim incidents across the country, said one in 10 reports it receives involve incidents taking place in schools.

“Attacks against kids are really picking up,” said director Iman Atta.

“There is of bullying on all levels in schools, and there are a lot of discussions on social media around refugees and migration. We’re now in the height of Brexit. Refugees are always going to be the focus of those discussions.”

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