Syrian refugee attack: Boy's family crowdfunding to sue Tommy Robinson and Facebook over 'defamation'

Lawyers say Facebook enabled 'false comments' to spread as Robinson raised money 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 21 January 2019 16:19 GMT
Almondbury Community School as 16-year-old boy charged with assault over attack on 15-year-old Syrian refugee at school

Lawyers representing a Syrian boy who was attacked at school are crowdfunding to sue Tommy Robinson and Facebook.

Footage of the 15-year-old victim being pushed to the ground and having water poured on his face sparked outrage in November, and police continue to investigate the incident in Huddersfield.

Amid prominent media coverage, Mr Robinson posted a series of videos on his Facebook account accusing the boy of bullying and claiming “lots of Muslim gangs are beating up white English kids” in Britain.

Lawyers for the victim, Jamal, allege that the anti-Islam activist’s posts were defamatory and are exploring whether Facebook can be pursued for allowing fundraising via his page.

A page asking for public donations to “sue Tommy Robinson, Facebook and others” has raised more than £3,000 since going online on Saturday.

Abdulnaser Youssef, of Farooq Bajwa and Co solicitors, wrote that allegations that Jamal was involved in the beating of a young English girl was false.

“Tommy Robinson [whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon] sought to justify the abuse directed towards Jamal, he defamed the young boy,” he added.

“To make matters worse, he even raised money in support of those behind the bullying by galvanising cash from his supporters on social media platforms.”

Mr Youssef said Jamal’s lawyers were raising money for a defamation action over Mr Robinson’s “false comments” and added: “We are also exploring bringing a claim against Facebook and other social media platforms which have been exploited by Lennon [Robinson] to publish his false and damaging comments made in respect of Jamal.”

Lawyers for Jamal say they want to probe Mr Robinson's finances (AFP)

Mr Robinson’s Facebook page has more than 1 million followers and his posts on the Huddersfield incident were viewed up to 900,000 times each.

The page had a “donate” button to transfer him money at the time, but it was removed amid concern that a tool the social media giant says is for charities was abused.

Facebook deleted several of Mr Robinson’s videos for violating community standards, after Jamal’s family announced their intention to sue in November.

Their lawyers hope to use part of the crowdfunded money to “penetrate the veil surrounding Lennon's finances” to ensure compensation can be sought if the lawsuit succeeds.

They said that Mr Robinson’s social media posts caused Jamal to become “the focus of countless messages of hate and threats from the extreme right wing”, and a police safety warning.

Mr Youssef said money from another crowdfunding page set up in November had enabled the family to “relocate to a safer environment where Jamal and his sister will be able to live and study in peace”.

West Yorkshire Police said the incident at Almondbury Community School remains under investigation.

The suspect, a 16-year-old boy, has been summonsed to court for alleged assault but no date for the hearing has been set.

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

The Independent has asked Facebook for comment.

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