Tommy Robinson has been ordered to pay £100,000 to a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked at school, after the English Defence League founder lost a libel case.
Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – was sued by Jamal Hijazi, 18, who was assaulted in the playground at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield in October 2018.
Shortly after the video of the incident went viral, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that Mr Hijazi was “not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school”.
In the clips, viewed by nearly a million people, 38-year-old Robinson also claimed Mr Hijazi “beat a girl black and blue” and “threatened to stab” another boy at his school, allegations which were rejected as false by Mr Justice Nicklin in a judgment on Thursday.
The judge ruled in Mr Hijazi’s favour and granted him £100,000 in damages, as well as ordering Robinson to pay costs which the PA news agency understands to be more than £500,000.
Robinson, who attended the remote hearing by video link, said he was “gobsmacked” by the costs Mr Hijazi’s lawyers were claiming, which he said included £70,000 for taking witness statements.
He said: “I’ve not got any money. I’m bankrupt. I’ve struggled hugely with my own issues these last 12 months… I ain’t got it.”
At a four-day trial in April, Mr Hijazi’s lawyers said Robinson’s comments had “a devastating effect” on the schoolboy and his family who had come to the UK as refugees from Homs, Syria.
Robinson, who represented himself, argued his comments were substantially true, claiming to have “uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour” by Mr Hijazi.
However, Mr Justice Nicklin said: “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 He has, however, persisted with the serious allegations he originally made, and has even added to them during the proceedings.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 judge said Robinson’s videos were “calculated to inflame the situation” and said Mr Hijazi predictably became the target of abuse and had to leave his home and abandon his education.
Mr Justice Nicklin continued: “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.”
At a brief hearing after the judgment was published, Mr Justice Nicklin ordered Robinson to pay Mr Hijazi’s legal costs, which were not stated in court.
The judge acknowledged “there are limits on what can be enforced against him” as a result of Robinson’s bankruptcy.
He also granted Mr Hijazi an injunction against Robinson, preventing him from repeating the allegations made against him.
The judge said he was initially not going to grant an injunction, but Mr Hijazi’s lawyers said a video published by Robinson on social media this weekend – in which he said he was going to publish “the total evidence and proof” of what Mr Hijazi “was like” – meant an injunction was necessary.
Robinson said he had been commissioned to make a film about the incident which was “already made”, adding: “It’s left for the viewer to make their mind (up) on what’s happened.”
He said “my phone is pinging off like hell now by journalists, by the media” and added that an injunction, which he described as a “gagging order”, was “totally unnecessary”.
Robinson also told the judge that, by granting an injunction, “it will look like you are trying to prevent it (the film), but the film will go out in the United States anyway, so I don’t see the point”.
Mr Hijazi’s lawyers said they were “delighted” that the teenager had won his claim.
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.
“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.”