Laurence Fox ordered to pay £180,000 in damages after wrongly branding two people paedophiles

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 what Ms Justice Collins Rice described in her ruling as a “distinctly homophobic” libel.

Mr Fox called Mr Blake and the former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, whose real name is Colin Seymour, “paedophiles” during an exchange on Twitter about a decision by Sainsbury’s to mark Black History Month in October 2020.

The Reclaim Party founder – who said at the time that he would boycott the supermarket – attempted to counter-sue the pair and broadcaster Nicola Thorp over tweets accusing him of racism.

However, in a judgment in January, Ms Justice Collins Rice dismissed Mr Fox‘s counterclaims and ruled in favour of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour,

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.

“They are entitled by law to an award of money, to compensate them for those damaging effects, and to ensure that they can put this matter behind them, vindicated and confident that no one can sensibly doubt their blamelessness of that disgusting slur and that they were seriously wronged by it.”

In a judgment in January, Collins Rice ruled in favour of Blake and Seymour, dismissing Fox’s counter-claims (PA)
In a judgment in January, Collins Rice ruled in favour of Blake and Seymour, dismissing Fox’s counter-claims (PA)

Ms Justice Collins Rice said she accepted the evidence of Mr Blake and Mr Seymour that they experienced Mr Fox’s libel as “distinctively homophobic”.

She said: “Their vulnerability to reputational harm by this libel was exacerbated by their national profile on LGBTQ+ issues and the safeguarding matters engaged by their respective livelihoods.

“The claimants’ evidence, which I accepted, was that they experienced the libel and its consequences as distinctively homophobic.”

She added: “Out of nowhere, and literally overnight, they were catapulted into the glare of a national news story and national media commentary of an exceptionally vehement, exposing and polarised nature.”

At a hearing in March, Lorna Skinner KC, for Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, had said the pair should receive “at least six-figure sums” from Mr Fox, calling a suggestion the pair should only receive a “modest” award “nonsense”.

Ms Justice Collins Rice said in her ruling that the award of damages could have been a “multiple” higher if his “victims” had been different.

She said: “To an extent, Mr Fox was after all fortunate in his victims. Mr Blake and Mr Seymour were subjected to an unwarranted ordeal.

“But they have not had their lives and their prospects ruined by it, as they might have done. They have had powerful support publicly and privately, and have shown themselves to be self-possessed, articulate, resourceful and resilient individuals.

“Had it been otherwise, the award of damages could well have been a multiple of the figure I have decided upon.”

However, Patrick Green KC, for Mr Fox, said the starting point of damages should be between £10,000 and £20,000, with the total being “substantially lowered” due to an apology from Mr Fox and the absence of malice.

Mr Green added: “The remarks were quickly retracted and apologised for, and at the very least it was clear to the public at large at an early stage that the allegation was baseless.”

Blake, Nicola Thorp and Seymour (PA)
Blake, Nicola Thorp and Seymour (PA)

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 Twitter/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.”

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”.

Ms 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 Twitter/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.