Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Laurence Fox libelled two men when he called them 'paedophiles' on social media, High Court rules
29 January 2024, 15:11 | Updated: 29 January 2024, 16:35
Actor-turned-politician Laurence Fox libelled two men when he referred to them as “paedophiles” on social media, a High Court judge has ruled.
Listen to this article
Fox was sued by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and drag artist Crystal over a row on Twitter in October 2020.
Mr Fox called Mr Blake and the former RuPaul's Drag Race contestant, whose real name is Colin Seymour, "paedophiles" in an exchange about a decision by Sainsbury's to mark Black History Month.
A judge ruled today that his remarks were "seriously harmful, defamatory and baseless."
Reclaim Party founder Fox - who said at the time that he would boycott the supermarket - counter-sued the pair and broadcaster Nicola Thorp over tweets accusing him of racism.
In a ruling on Monday, High Court judge Mrs Justice Collins Rice ruled in favour of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, dismissing Mr Fox's counter-claims.
She said: "Mr Fox's labelling of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour as paedophiles was, on the evidence, probabilities and facts of this case, seriously harmful, defamatory and baseless.
"The law affords few defences to defamation of this sort.
"Mr Fox did not attempt to show these allegations were true, and he was not able to bring himself on the facts within the terms of any other defence recognised in law."
During a trial in London in November, Mr Fox was described as an alleged "intelligent racist with an agenda".
Lorna Skinner KC, representing Mr Blake, Mr Seymour and Ms Thorp, said the trio "honestly believed, and continue honestly to believe, that Mr Fox is a racist".
In his written evidence for the case, Mr Seymour, a Canadian artist, said he had faced "overwhelming and distressing" abuse after Mr Fox's tweet, adding that he felt less safe as a drag performer.
Mr Blake, now chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England, said the incorrect suggestion that gay men are paedophiles is "a trope as old as the hills".
However, Patrick Green KC, representing Mr Fox, told the court that neither Mr Blake nor Mr Seymour "has suffered any actual, real-world consequences" due to the actor's tweets.
Mr Fox told the court he was "horrified" when he saw he had been called a racist, which he later described as "a career-ending word and a reputation-destroying allegation".
The actor said he faced a "significant decline" in the number and quality of roles he was offered after he was accused of being a racist in the social media row.
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Mr Fox described the ruling in his libel case as a "nothing burger".
He said: "It means that we're going to have to go back to court, to appeal, to get a meaning of this word.
"What is a racist? Every single person in this country knows what a racist is, except the people that dominate every single national institution that we have."
Mr Fox continued: "Racism as a term is used just as a point of disagreement, and a point of 'I don't like you, therefore you're a racist'.
"This is a great, wonderful country and I admire and I respect this country, and I fight for it and I fight for my children and I fight for everybody else out there who doesn't have my platform who gets called these vicious slurs, and I just want a definition of the word."
Ms Thorp said in a post on X, formerly Twitter: "We won. On all counts.
"For the last three years, Laurence Fox has held us responsible for the downfall of his acting career, his failure to become London mayor and even the increasing cost of his car insurance.
"During my cross-examination, his barrister even suggested I was responsible for his arrest in October last year. "All because on 4th October 2020 we exercised our right to free speech by expressing our honestly held opinions.
"The same man who later told a black man to 'f*** off back to Jamaica', posted pride flags in the shape of a swastika and shared blacked up images of himself and his children.
"It's time that Mr Fox accepted that any damage to his reputation is entirely his own doing."
Crystal said on X formerly Twitter: "I am incredibly relieved to have this outcome - a huge weight I've been carrying for over three years has just been lifted.
"I want to say again that I took no joy in bringing this case, nor did I do so lightly. Mr Fox could have made this go away very early on with a meaningful apology and settlement."
The drag artist, whose real name is Colin Seymour, continued: "Ironically for Mr Fox, this victory is a victory for free speech. "The freedom to express an opinion and not be sued for doing so. Free speech does not cover factual allegations of criminality such as paedophilia."
Mr Seymour added: This judgment unequivocally states that his tweet was defamatory and that it caused me harm. I am very happy to have this finalised and I hope it will make some difference in the ongoing demonisation of queer people as 'groomers' or 'dangerous'. "This is a lesson: we will not take it."