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Saturday 19 January 2019

Tommy Robinson Faces Defamation Action

While Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, ranted recently from a motorway service area about a teenager who is accused of assaulting a Syrian refugee at their school near Huddersfield, he let slip that someone was looking to sue him. This was one of those blink-and-you-miss-it moments; it was clear that Lennon did not take the idea seriously. He may soon have cause to reconsider.
What should be giving Lennon cause to worry is the narrative in a Crowdjustice post by Abdulnasser Youssef, described as “Jamal’s Litigation Friend” (Jamal is the young Syrian refugee). He tells “He defamed the young boy by falsely stating that amongst other things Jamal was involved in the violent gang beating of young English girl who had to be subsequently home-schooled through fear”. And there is more.

We will be bringing an action in defamation against Lennon, we are also exploring bringing a claim against Facebook and other social media platforms which have been exploited by Lennon to publish his false and damaging comments made in respect of Jamal”. Also, there are further counts of defamation to consider.

On the 28 November 2018 Mr Lennon produced the first video containing defamatory statements about Jamal … Over the following days and weeks, further publications which contained defamatory statements in respect of Jamal were published by Mr Lennon, and again these were posted to various social media platforms”. And the result?

Jamal became the focus of countless messages of hate and threats from the extreme right wing. The police informed Jamal that there was an increased risk to the safety of he and his family; as a result, he and his family were forced to relocate”. Therefore “We will be pursuing an action, in defamation, and any other cause of action advised by our solicitors in respect of the defamatory publications made by Mr Lennon”.
Now come the interesting parts, and for Lennon the parts to which he would be best advised to pay attention. “We are exploring routes by which the social media platforms that provide a means of dissemination to Lennon can also be attached to this action”. That would mean making the likes of Facebook liable, as they had disseminated the content.

And now the pièce de résistance: “We will also have to undertake a review regarding the enforceability of any judgment which is successfully obtained for Jamal. We expect this to be complex as Mr Lennon has not only gone by several names during his lifetime but also has several criminal convictions … His criminality indicates that enforcement of any financial award obtained may be challenging. We hope to penetrate the veil of Mr Lennon's finances,  identify and forensically trace all of Mr Lennon's financial assets so that he does not escape the economic consequences of his defamation of others”.

It would make little sense winning a defamation action, only to see Lennon squirrel away his assets beyond the reach of the courts. This tracing work is going on alongside accumulating evidence of defamation. Lennon knows this. Hence his angry and agitated tone when discussing the case the other day. He knows this is serious.

What this case is about is not only securing redress for Lennon’s repeated defamation of a young Syrian refugee, but then enforcing the judgment. That means it’s serious.
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Unknown said...

" That would mean making the likes of Facebook liable, as they had disseminated the content."

No. No it wouldn't. Not in a court of law. No chance at all. That would be like saying you phone provider is liable because it was used to organise an armed robbery.

Facebook, just like your phone provider, sends the information, it is not responsible for it. This isn't a controversial opinion, it has been tested in court many times. And every time it has failed.

You can't successfully sue Facebook for the messages its users send. And neither should you be able to.

And just for the record I think Lennon is a racist dick, but service providers are not responsible for the people that use it.

As far as suing social media, the law suit is going nowhere, although I fully support the personal defamation angle and have donated.

Anonymous said...

Unknown 16:56.

Is that analogy with a phone provider quite accurate?

After all, social media is in general as public as newspapers and broadcast media. Both of which are subject to hate legislation and libel/slander laws.

Social media is different in the sense that there are so many users - which makes it difficult to control. But once a breach of legislation is identified it surely behoves the provider to remove the offending piece or face the courts.

Anonymous said...

Not a good analogy by Unknown.
While a UK court ruled in the very early internet days that Google was not a publisher this has been challenged successfully especially in Australia in several cases where Google has lost and been hit fro big damages despite the $millions they throw at the court with lawyers.

The UK court decision years ago is not fixed in stone. It's complicated but I reckon the days of social media giants pleading they are simply a conduit like a telephone service are nearing the end.

They are take advertising and are not a mute service like a telephone line. They promote themselves as publishers in everything but name and they routinely breach their own "user" rules in cases like this.

Anonymous said...

The starting position in English law is that Facebook is merely a platform and it is not liable as publisher of the defamatory content of one of its users. However, that changes once Facebook is put on notice that it is hosting defamatory content, at which point FB can become liable as the publisher if it does not act expeditiously to remove the content - Tamiz v Google.