Laurence Fox ordered to pay £180,000 in libel damages

Laurence Fox has been ordered to pay a total of £180,000 in damages to two people he referred to as paedophiles on social media after losing a High Court libel battle.

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.

Laurence Fox libel case
Simon Blake, Nicola Thorp and Colin Seymour sued Mr Fox over an argument on Twitter (Lucy North/PA)

In a judgment in January, Mrs Justice Collins Rice ruled in favour of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, dismissing Mr Fox’s counter-claims.

And in a ruling on Thursday, the judge said Mr Fox – who she described as a “practised wielder of the public megaphone” – should pay Mr Blake and Mr Seymour £90,000 each in damages.

She said: “Engaging in a lively – even rude or offensive – online debate about a provocative call to boycott Sainsbury’s did not on any fair analysis invite the response Mr Fox visited upon them.

“Mr Blake and Mr Seymour were absolutely entitled not to have Mr Fox publicly call them paedophiles.”

Mrs Justice Collins Rice said Mr Fox subjected the pair “to a wholly undeserved public ordeal. It was a gross, groundless and indefensible libel, with distressing and harmful real-world consequences for them”.

She continued: “They have been forced to fight a libel claim all the way through to trial with every single conceivable point being taken against them… They have done so under the sustained hailstorm of Mr Fox’s exercise of his rights of amplified free speech.”

The judge later said Mr Fox had tried to “attach blame and discredit” Mr Blake and Mr Seymour during the litigation, and hold them responsible “for a range of his own life’s adversities”.

Later in the judgment, Mrs Justice Collins Rice said she accepted the evidence of the pair that they experienced Mr Fox’s libel as “distinctively homophobic”.

She noted Mr Seymour had been “embroiled” in a controversy about the suitability of drag entertainment for children, adding: “There is obviously a difference between criticising a drag performer for their judgment as to what is child-appropriate, and calling them an actual or potential child sex offender.”

The judge also said there “is no element of punishing Mr Fox” in awarding the sum of damages, adding: “It is a purely compensatory award to redress the damage done and restore the equilibrium that his libels violated, and which he has not taken the opportunity to restore more fully himself.”

Laurence Fox libel case
Laurence Fox, pictured in January following the initial ruling, did not attend court for the hearing in March (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Mrs Justice Collins Rice said: “Mr Blake and Mr Seymour are legally entitled not to have Mr Fox repeat the same or similar allegations as the one he made – namely, that they are paedophiles… He has no right whatever to do so and his track record of public utterances persuades me that this discipline is necessary and proportionate.”

However, the judge declined to make an order requiring Mr Fox to publish a summary of the decision on his X account.

She said the “bald fact” of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour’s victory was “widely known” and had been the subject of extensive publicity, adding there was a risk that any ordered publication could be used to cause “further public humiliation and inaccurate or counterproductive commentary” about the pair.

Ahead of Thursday’s ruling, Mr Fox described the original judgment as a “bullies charter” and said he disagreed “profoundly” with the result.

He said in a post on X: “I don’t know what the judge will award these people. But the costs of these proceedings are enormous. So a whopper of a cheque is getting written in the next few days.”

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