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

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)

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.

In a ruling on Thursday, the judge said Mr Fox should pay Mr Blake and Mr Seymour £90,000 each in damages.

She said: “By calling Mr Blake and Mr Seymour paedophiles, Mr Fox subjected them to a wholly undeserved public ordeal. It was a gross, groundless and indefensible libel, with distressing and harmful real-world consequences for them.”

In her 14-page ruling, Mrs Justice Collins Rice said Mr Blake and Mr Seymour are “entitled to a complete vindication, the undoing of the reputational impact of the libels and the resumption of public and private life without any trace on their characters of the long and dark shadow cast by even the most casual public bandying about of allegations of criminal paedophilia”.

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, and if they, or at any rate Mr Seymour, have sometimes tried to make their own voices heard above the din and exercise their own rights to free speech, that has been an occasion of further hailstones.”

Mrs Justice Collins Rice later 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)

As well as the sum of damages, the senior judge also ordered Mr Fox to not repeat the allegations against Mr Blake and Mr Seymour “on pain of being found guilty of contempt of court”.

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.”