When a young Syrian refugee was set upon outside his school in the Huddersfield suburb of Almondbury last November, it set in train a series of events whose story arc is only now curving back towards a just resolution. The schoolboy, called Jamal, had, along with his family, fled their home in the city of Homs, because it had been destroyed. But that was not allowed to trouble the racist and opportunist fringe out there on the far right.
Soon after there had been a wave of disgust at the actions of Jamal’s attackers, there was the inevitable visit to the area by Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson. He declared that Jamal’s attacker was, in reality, the victim, and made a number of claims about Jamal on the basis of very flimsy evidence, much of which has since been withdrawn. He made the claims on Facebook to an audience of over one million.
Here on Zelo Street, his claims were soon debunked. Then came the first indications of a defamation action on behalf of Jamal. A crowdfunding exercise followed. Lennon’s assets were the subject of a tracing exercise: It would make little sense winning a defamation action, only to see Lennon squirrel away his assets beyond the reach of the courts. The next hurdle was to ensure he was served with notice of proceedings.
Here a problem entered: Lennon ignored all electronic communication, and as far as is known, also ignored all attempts to contact him using the post. So he had to be served the papers via a visit to his gated mansion. This was accomplished at the beginning of March. It was clear that this mission had achieved its objective, because Lennon very publicly lost his cool and tried to blame his misfortune on historian and campaigner Mike Stuchbery.
His aggressive and dishonest doorstepping of Stuchbery, together with several highly defamatory claims about him, was totally out of order. But it did serve to show that Lennon knew he was in a corner. He could have withdrawn his allegations, apologised and reached a settlement with Jamal and his lawyers. But that would have meant losing face.
So he kept up the braggadocio, with the result that Jamal’s lawyers have had papers filed to the High Court. As the Guardian has reported, “Jamal Hijazi, 16, has filed papers to the high court seeking libel action against the founder of the English Defence League after he was alleged to have ‘peddled false and defamatory lies’ about the schoolboy”.
Those who have been smeared and otherwise targeted by Lennon will be able to savour that one: The Great Tommy, who tells his adoring followers that those he targets have “told lies about him”, is in reality a liar of the lowest and most obvious kind. He lies as he invents pretexts under which to intimidate his critics. He lies in order to demonise Muslims, the mainstream media, anti-fascists, and indeed anyone who opposed him.
Stephen Lennon’s inability to tell invention from reality has not had a price for him - until now. Others who have been defamed by him may now be mulling their own legal actions, or indeed joining together to take him to the cleaners.
Another little Wild West Show is heading for the last roundup. Good thing too.
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