Laurence Fox must pay more than £36,000 in legal fees to three people he referred to as ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter.
The actor was ordered to pay the fees on Thursday, on his 44th birthday, after losing his bid for a jury to hear their High Court libel battle.
Fox is being sued for libel by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake, ex-Coronation Street actress and Metro.co.uk columnist Nicola Thorp and drag artist Crystal after he called them ‘paedophiles’ in an online row in October 2020.
In turn, Fox – who founded the Reclaim Party and unsuccessfully stood as a candidate in the last London mayoral election – is counter-suing the trio over tweets accusing him of racism in an exchange following Sainsbury’s decision to celebrate Black History Month.
At a hearing in April, Fox’s lawyers asked for the case to be decided by a jury rather than a judge, which is highly unusual in defamation cases.
However presiding judge, Justice Nicklin, denied the request for a jury, adding he had ‘no hesitation’ in doing so.
At a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Thursday, May 26, the judge said Fox would have to pay the trio’s legal costs of responding to his request for a jury trial.
The amount comes to £36,684 in total.
Responding to Fox’s request for a jury trial, Justice Nicklin said it was an ‘ambitious application’.
Fox, who did not appear at the most recent hearing, has been given 21 days to pay the sum.
And according to court documents, the actor’s legal costs for making the unsuccessful bid came to £116,314.55, which he will also have to pay.
Making the bid for a jury trial, Fox’s barrister Alexandra Marzec had said a jury would be better at reaching fair verdicts ‘in light of the cultural and social context of this case,’ adding that judges could be subject to ‘involuntary bias’.
However, Justice Nicklin said in his written judgment: ‘The defendant has not satisfied me that a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that a judge trying this case alone would suffer from “involuntary bias”.’
He added: ‘The fair-minded and informed observer must be taken to know that, faithful to his/her judicial oath, the judge in this case would be required to apply the law to the determination of the issues in the case, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.’
Responding to the judge’s decision, Fox said in a statement: ‘I am disappointed that the court has not ruled there should be a jury trial. I believed this was an ideal case for a jury to sit, especially considering the emotive and zeitgeist issues in play.
‘I think this places any trial judge in the invidious position of having to define ‘racism’ in the 21st century, where I am asking that judge to adopt a common-sense definition completely at odds with the Equal Treatment Bench Book, a document which dictates to judges to think about ‘racism’ in a particular way and act accordingly in their courts every single day.
‘Nonetheless, I fight on and am confident justice will be served.’
Fox’s lawyer Marzec had argued that a jury was more likely to be diverse than a single High Court judge.
The lawyer had said that a diverse jury would mean the decision would be ‘incapable of being undermined on the lazy basis that a white judge sided with a white man who denied being racist’.
In a written judgement, Marzec wrote that Fox’s tweets were not intended ‘or received or understood by anyone as a factual statement that any of the claimants were in fact “paedophiles”’.
Further explaining their request for a jury, Marzec later argued that judges could be subject to ‘involuntary bias’, as a Judicial College document on equal treatment has an ‘ideological’ definition of racism.
However, Heather Rogers QC, for the trio, disputed this claim.
She said: ‘It’s such a bad argument…. It is a guidance as to how you treat people in court, it is not the law.’
Previously speaking about his tweets on an episode of Jeremy Vine, Fox said: ‘It was in response, possibly, to 10 months now of being called a racist by people on Twitter, which I think is a career-ending slur, actually, and I find very hurtful.
‘If the point is that words mean nothing, seeing as it’s a totally baseless allegation and is entirely in opposition to what my feelings are, I thought, you know what, if words meaning nothing nowadays, I can call you anything I want in return.
‘Was it my finest hour? No.’
The next hearing in the case is due in the autumn.
Got a story?
If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the Metro.co.uk entertainment team by emailing us [email protected], calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.
Source: Read Full Article