Tommy Robinson loses bid to defend Syrian schoolboy claims as in public interest

Tommy Robinson cannot defend his allegations against a Syrian schoolboy who was filmed being attacked in a school playground as in the public interest, the High Court has ruled.

Jamal Hijazi, who came to the UK as a refugee and was 16 at the time of the incident, was pushed to the ground at a school in Huddersfield in 2018.

He is suing Mr Robinson for libel after the English Defence League founder claimed he was ‘not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school’ in two videos posted on Facebook.

The 37-year-old claimed Jamal ‘beat a girl black and blue’ and ‘threatened to stab’ another boy at his school – claims which the teenager ’emphatically denies’.

The judge handling the case today slapped down an attempt by Mr Robinson to defend his comments as in the public interest, saying his argument failed to respect the difference between his ‘subjective belief’ and objective truth.

Mr Robinson’s defence pleads that he can prove his claims were true, although he since applied to amend it to also argue they were made in the public interest.

The law can protect defendants from being successfully sued if they show they reasonably believed their claims were in the public interest, even if their claims turn out to be false.

It is for the courts to decide objectively whether such beliefs have been reached ‘reasonably’, disregarding the defendant’s subjective views.

Lawyers for Mr Robinson said he contacted the then-15-year-old boy who pushed Jamal in the footage, who is known in the case as ‘B’, along with three parents of children who had allegedly been assaulted by Jamal.

Their application said it was in the public interest to publicise B’s version of events as there was ‘far more to the story’.

But they will not get to make the defence in court as the judge said there was a ‘complete absence of chronology’ for Mr Robinson’s investigations.

Lawyers for Jamal argued Mr Robinson had very little time to carry out the interviews he claims to have conducted as his videos were published one and two days after the attack respectively.

Mr Justice Nicklin added: ‘In order to disclose a case with a real prospect of success, (Robinson) must make clear when the various interviews, and other steps upon which he places reliance, took place.’

He added the EDL founder has still failed to provide the names of anyone who accused Jamal of being violent towards them.

However he said ‘the door is not finally closed’ to a public interest defence and will consider a more detailed application that properly explains the timeline.

The judge also accepted amendments to Robinson’s existing defence that his claims were true, which added further details to known allegations against Jamal as well as three new alleged incidents.

The trial continues.

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