Actor-turned-politician should pay ‘at least six-figure sums’ in damages, High Court told

Laurence Fox should pay “at least six-figure sums” in damages to two people he referred to as paedophiles on social media, the High Court has been told.

The actor-turned-politician was successfully sued by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and drag artist Crystal over a row on Twitter, now known as X.

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 in October 2020.

The Reclaim Party founder – 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 judgment in January, Mrs Justice Collins Rice ruled in favour of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, dismissing Mr Fox’s counter-claims.

The case returned to the High Court in London on Friday to determine the consequences of the judge’s ruling, including any compensation and injunctions.

Lorna Skinner KC, for Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, asked for damages for the pair, telling the court: “The peculiar feature of an allegation like this… it is an allegation that somebody does not need to be convinced of the truth of it to shun and avoid a person.”

The barrister said the two people should receive “at least six-figure sums” from Mr Fox, calling a suggestion the pair should only receive a “modest” award “nonsense”.

She added: “It needs to cross that threshold so they can point to it and say ‘there is nothing in this’.”

Ms Skinner said the allegations had caused the pair “considerable upset”, adding in written submissions that the court “can take into account the distress, hurt and humiliation that the defamatory publication caused”.

As well as damages, Ms Skinner also asked for an order requiring Mr Fox to publish a summary of the judge’s decision on his X – formerly Twitter – account.

She told the court: “What Mr Fox has been telling his followers about the claim brought by the claimants is completely inaccurate.

“They are being fed a narrative about this judgment that is simply not true.”

Ms Skinner also asked for an injunction preventing Mr Fox from repeating the allegations, telling the court that he has “a real vitriol about these claimants”.

Patrick Green KC, for Mr Fox – who did not attend court – said there was no need for the Lewis actor to publicise the ruling decision on his social media.

He said in written submissions: “This has been the most high-profile libel action of the year and both the trial and the judgment were massively reported in the media…. There can be few, if any, original publishees in the present case who will be unaware of its outcome.”

The barrister added: “The outcome of this long-running case literally could not be better known than it is already.”

Mr Green said the starting point of damages should be between £10,000 and £20,000, with the total being “substantially lowered” due to Mr Fox apologising and the absence of malice.

He continued: “The rhetorical nature of the comments was made clear within the hour, the defendant had given his first apology within a week… the fact that Mr Blake and Mr Seymour succeeded in their claims with a public judgment of the court should already convince any reasonable bystander that the effect is erased.

“For whatever passing doubts or vague suspicions that may have at some time subsisted in the minds of readers, only a modest financial award in compensation should be due.”

“The remarks were quickly retracted and apologised for, and at the very least it was clear to the public at large at an early stage that the allegation was baseless,” he added.

Mr Green later told the court that Mr Fox’s libels “were directly provoked” by the three individuals, who sent “undoubtedly abusive and offensive” posts.

During a trial in London in November, Mr Fox said he faced a “significant decline” in the number and quality of roles he was offered after he was accused of being a racist.

But in the 41-page ruling earlier this year, Mrs Justice Collins Rice said it would be “extremely long odds” for the trio’s tweets to have caused the current state of his acting career or other serious harm.

In her judgment, Mrs Justice Collins Rice concluded: “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.”

“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.”

The hearing before Mrs Justice Collins Rice concluded on Friday, with a decision in writing due at a later date.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2024, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jordan Pettitt / PA.