EDL founder Tommy Robinson loses libel case brought by Syrian schoolboy

22 July 2021, 13:17 | Updated: 22 July 2021, 23:24

English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson has lost a libel case brought by a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked at a Huddersfield school.

After the video went viral in 2018, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos that Jamal Hijazi was "not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school".

His lawyers said the comments had "a devastating effect" on him and his family, who had come to the UK as refugees, forcing them to move home and abandon his education.

A judge on Thursday ruled in Jamal's favour, granting him £100,000 in damages, and also imposed an injunction to stop Robinson repeating the allegations.

The Facebook videos in response to the attack at Almondbury Community School in October 2018 were viewed nearly a million times.

Robinson also claimed in the clips that Jamal, now 18, "beat a girl black and blue" and "threatened to stab" another boy - allegations the teenager denies.

The case went to trial in April and Robinson - who represented himself - argued his comments were true and claimed to have "uncovered dozens of accounts of aggressive, abusive and deceitful behaviour" by the teenager.

Jamal's lawyer, Catrin Evans QC, said the comments had led to death threats and "extremist agitation".

Ms Evans told the court Mr Robinson had an "anti-Muslim agenda" and that his videos "turned Jamal into the aggressor and the bully into a righteous white knight".

Robinson - whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - claimed during the trial that he was an independent journalist.

"The media simply had zero interest in the other side of this story, the uncomfortable truth," he said.

But in Thursday's ruling the judge said Jamal had suffered "particularly severe" consequences and that Robinson's attempt to prove his allegations had fallen "woefully short".

The judge said his actions were "a deliberate effort to portray the claimant as being... a violent aggressor" using language "calculated to inflame the situation".

He said Robinson had failed to show Jamal had been aggressive or abusive towards female staff or pupils.

"There is no trace of any such behaviour by the claimant in these [school] records. On the contrary, his behavioural record is overwhelmingly positive," said Mr Justice Nicklin.

He added that the school attack on Jamal was not racially motivated, and that the other boy involved was also a victim and wrongly portrayed as a racist bully.

As well as the damages, Robinson was also ordered to pay Jamal's legal costs - but he told the court he was bankrupt.

"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," he said.

Speaking after the ruling, Jamal Hijazi's lawyers said it had taken great courage for him to pursue the case.

"We are delighted that Jamal has been entirely vindicated," said Francesca Flood from Burlingtons Legal.

"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."