Judge urges Laurence Fox to settle libel claim over ‘unattractive Twitter spat’ after he called three people ‘paedophiles’ during online rant
- Actor being sued by Simon Blake, Nicola Thorp & Crystal over social media row
- In turn, Mr Fox is counter-suing the trio over tweets accusing him of racism
- But Senior Master Barbara Fontaine urged parties to settle dispute out of court
A judge has told Laurence Fox and three people he’s locked in a High Court libel battle with over a Twitter spat to settle their dispute over the ‘pointless exchange’ out of court.
The actor is being sued by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake, Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp and drag artist Crystal after he referred to them as ‘paedophiles’ during an online row in October last year.
In turn, Mr Fox – who founded the Reclaim Party and stood as a candidate in the last London mayoral election – is counter-suing the trio over tweets accusing him of racism.
The case is currently set for trial unless the parties can resolve the dispute out of court, and a ruling on Wednesday revealed Mr Fox is ‘minded to’ ask for the case to be decided by a jury rather than a judge – which is now highly unusual in defamation cases.
Giving the ruling on preliminary issues, Senior Master Barbara Fontaine said the parties should ‘seek to resolve this dispute by negotiation and settlement’.
Laurence Fox (pictured) and three people he is locked in a High Court libel battle with over an ‘unattractive Twitter spat’ have been urged by a judge to settle their dispute over the ‘pointless exchange’
Giving the ruling on preliminary issues, Senior Master Barbara Fontaine said the parties should ‘seek to resolve this dispute by negotiation and settlement’
Mr Fox had accused Sainsbury’s of ‘promoting racial segregation and discrimination’ and promised to boycott the supermarket chain after it promoted Black History Month
Crystal wrote in response to Mr Fox’s tweet: ‘Imagine being this proud of being a racist! So cringe’
In response, Mr Fox wrote: ‘Says the paedophile’
In a separate thread, Mr Fox found himself in a fiery debate with former Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp after she said Mr Fox was ‘unequivocally, publicly and undeniably a racist’
Mr Fox hit back by copying her statement but changing ‘racist’ for ‘paedophile’
Mr Blake also weighed in, saying: ”What a mess, what a racist t***”’ in comments that he later withdrew
Mr Fox said back, ‘Pretty rich coming from a paedophile’, prompting Mr Blake to demand he take down the tweet, which he did
She said: ‘It would seem incredible to most ordinary people that the parties are prepared to spend what could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds on such a pointless exchange.
‘There are many more useful ways in which the parties, all apparently intelligent and talented people, could expend their energy and resources.
‘I urge them to consider seriously how they might find a way to reach a compromise and end this dispute.’
The judge said Mr Fox’s solicitors estimate his legal costs will be about £500,000 if the case is heard in two stages, and about £360,000 if it is heard in a single full trial – but this would increase to about £490,000 if it is a jury trial.
She said she has ‘very serious doubts’ about whether an application for a jury trial would be likely to succeed, and noted there has not been a successful application for a jury trial in a defamation case for ‘several years’.
However, she said she does ‘not consider it appropriate to pre-judge the outcome of such an application’ and he should be given the opportunity to consider whether he wishes to request a jury trial once he has seen the claimants’ defence case.
Mr Fox’s legal team told the judge that depending on the defence case put forward by the three claimants, he may wish to ask for a jury trial because his ‘counterclaims concern the accusation of racism in a highly charged political climate on this particular issue’.
They argued it would be ‘less appropriate’ for a judge to decide the case than a jury ‘who will be drawn from a random cross-section of the public, so that their views would be more likely to reflect the public view’.
The judge made orders relating to case management, including that the claimants have two weeks to serve details of their claim and their defence to Mr Fox’s counterclaim.
She also said Mr Fox will have to serve any application for a jury trial within a month of receiving those details.
Drag Queen Crystal – who was a contestant on the first season of hit show Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK – confirmed he has filed defamation proceedings against Laurence Fox
Deputy chair of LGBT charity Stonewall Simon Blake (pictured) and Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp are named as claimants
All three were falsely branded ‘paedophiles’ by Mr Fox after they called him ‘racist’. Pictured: Nicola Thorp
Mr Fox called both Mr Blake former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Crystal, whose real name is Colin Munro Seymour, ‘paedophiles’ in an exchange about Sainsbury’s decision to celebrate Black History Month.
He used the same label against Ms Thorp in a different thread.
Mr Fox said at the time he would be boycotting Sainsbury’s, accusing it of promoting ‘racial segregation and discrimination’.
Mr Blake called Mr Fox a ‘racist t***’ but later said he regretted using such language.
Mr Fox used the launch of the manifesto for his London mayoral campaign to defend his right to call people ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter, citing free speech and claiming it is just a ‘meaningless and baseless’ insult.
When told at the launch it was he who had allegedly called the three claimants paedophiles, he replied: ‘I was called a racist.’
Mr Fox added: ‘Free speech. You throw meaningless and baseless insults at someone you get a meaningless and baseless insult in return.’
Mr Fox received 47,634 votes in the May ballot, putting him in sixth place and meaning he lost his deposit.
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