Syrian teenager suing Tommy Robinson ‘seeking at least £150,000 damages’

Tommy Robinson ‘continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced’, says teen’s lawyer

Kate Ng
Tuesday 27 April 2021 09:47

Related Video: Syrian refugee arrives at court for libel case against Tommy Robinson

A Syrian teenager suing Tommy Robinson for libels seeking at least £150,000 in damages, the high Court has heard.

Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being sued by 17-year-old Jamal Hijazi, who was filmed being attacked at his school in Huddersfield in October 2018.

The video went viral in November, after which Mr Robinson claimed in two videos posted to his Facebook page that Jamal was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.

The founder of the English Defence League, who represented himself at the trial, defended his comments on the basis they are substantially true.

Catrin Evans QC, representing Jamal, said in her written closing argument that there should be “substantial damages” between £150,000 and £190,000 for the teenager from Almondbury Community School if he wins the claim.

On Monday, the last day of the four-day trial, she told the court: “In relation to the allegations which the defendant has sought to prove as substantially true, we suggest that he has not proved either of them.”

Mr Robinson, 38, maintained he was an independent journalist throughout the trial and told the court: “The media simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth.

“I am far from perfect, however this case is not about me, as much as the claimant’s representatives would like to make me, my history or my views a focus of their attention,” he said in his closing remarks.

“My political beliefs are not on trial, it’s whether my reporting on publicly available information was a matter of truth or not.”

A former student of the school, 18-year-old Charly Matthews, claimed Jamal hit her in the back with a hockey stick when she gave evidence as part of Mr Robinson’s case, leaving her with long-term injuries.

Mr Robinson told the court: “In order for this claimant to win this case, the court has to believe this young girl is a brazen liar.”

Mr Robinson also claimed in one of the videos - which garnered around 870,000 views - that Jamal “beat a girl black and blue” in a gang and bit a student. Jamal has denied the claims.

The trial previously heard evidence from Bailey McLaren, who was seen pushing Jamal to the ground and pouring water on him in the widely-shared video. Mr McLaren denied being racist or a billy.

Mr Robinson said that while the school “has its failings… racism and racist bullying was not one of them”, adding that Jamal “might have been a victim” but it “does not automatically mean he himself couldn’t be a nasty, foul-mouthed and often violent young person, particularly against girls and smaller, younger boys”.

Ms Evans argued in her closing statement that Mr Robinson suggested “that this is somehow a travesty of justice and that a white schoolboy has been scapegoated”.

She pointed out that although Mr Robinson lacked evidence to back his claims, Jamal had himself given “clear and consistent evidence”.

“We do rely on the defendant’s agenda, which we say is an anti-Muslim one, which is why he waded into this,” she told the court. “Jamal was the victim of that.

“Not only has the defendant sought to try and prove a case that he was never going to be able to do, but he has even, in his closing submissions, he has continued to exacerbate the hurt and distress the claimant has experienced,” she added.

“These are allegations of criminal offences or tantamount to criminal offences and it is quite clear that Jamal is the victim here.”

She also argued that the allegations against Jamal were made worse because they were made “against someone who had come to this country with his family for sanctuary, seeking a better life and in particular the chance for an education and prospects for a good career”.

Jamal said in evidence that these prospects were “badly damaged” by Mr Robinson’s allegations in his Facebook videos.

Mr Justice Nicklin told the court he will give his judgement at a later date.

He commended Mr Robinson for presenting the case “as a litigant in person” and said it was done in a way that “to my mind, [has been] quite proper] and you have done your best to assist the court”.