Tommy Robinson 'cannot afford a lawyer' for libel trial, court hears
Tommy Robinson will represent himself at libel trial after being sued by Syrian schoolboy because he ‘can’t afford a lawyer’, court hears
- Video showed Jamal Hijazi being attacked in school playground in Huddersfield
- Tommy Robinson, 38, later commented about incident in two Facebook videos
- He claimed Jamal, then 16, attacked girls in his school, which teenager denies
- At preliminary hearing today, Robinson said he would have to represent himself
Tommy Robinson will represent himself in a libel trial next month because he ‘cannot afford a lawyer’, the High Court has heard.
The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being sued by a Syrian refugee who was filmed being attacked in a school playground.
A video showing Jamal Hijazi, then 16, being pushed to the ground and threatened with drowning at Almondbury School, Huddersfield, provoked outrage after it went viral in November 2018.
Robinson, 38, later commented about the incident in two Facebook videos, claiming Jamal was ‘not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school’.
Tommy Robinson (pictured right, in 2019), whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is being sued by Jamal Hijazi (left), who was filmed being attacked in a school playground
He also alleged Jamal ‘beat a girl black and blue’ and ‘threatened to stab’ another boy at his school, allegations the teenager denies.
The teenager is bringing a libel claim against Robinson, who is relying on a defence of truth, and a trial is due to take place in April.
At a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today, Robinson said he would have to represent himself at the trial.
He told Mr Justice Griffiths: ‘I can’t afford a lawyer, so I’ve not got a lawyer. I’ve been a litigant in person for the last six weeks.’
Robinson added that he owes his former solicitor ‘quite a bit of money at the minute so she’s not representing me’.
He also claimed that ‘matters to do with this case resulted in the breakdown of my marriage and I’ve not been in a great place mentally’.
He asked for more time to prepare witness statements to support his case, telling the court he was recently stopped by West Yorkshire Police when he was attempting to gather evidence in Huddersfield.
Robinson said the police had also taken his mobile phone, which contained potential witnesses’ phone numbers, and would not return it until this weekend.
A video showing Jamal, then 16, being pushed to the ground and threatened with drowning at Almondbury School, Huddersfield, provoked outrage after it went viral in November 2018
He said that he wanted to take witness statements from ‘seven children and five teachers’, adding: ‘I know I will win the argument of truth in this case – I can 100% prove that.’
Robinson also claimed that several potential witnesses would only be willing to give evidence anonymously, as they did not want to be ‘associated with myself in the court case’.
He said: ‘Two of my child witnesses are studying law. I don’t want to ruin their lives.’
Robinson had initially asked for the trial in April to be adjourned, but did not pursue this at the hearing.
In written submissions, Mr Hijazi’s barrister, Ian Helme, said Robinson’s evidence ‘suggests that his difficulties are being caused by the reluctance of individuals to get involved in this action’.
At a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, pictured above, in London today, Robinson said he would have to represent himself at the trial (file photo)
He added: ‘The defendant’s difficulties are not related to the current situation [in relation to Covid-19], but to the fact that he is unable to identify individuals who are prepared to give evidence under oath to support his case.’
Mr Helme continued: ‘It has been over two years since the defendant published the allegations complained of.
‘They have been uncorrected in that time – indeed, the defendant has stated that he intends to prove them true at trial.
‘The claimant has had to live with that hanging over him for a very long time and it is profoundly unfair on him to delay his trial further.
‘Given the defence of truth, vindication is essential.’
Robinson was given until next Friday to file all witness statements on which he intends to rely, ahead of a pre-trial review at the end of March.
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