Laurence Fox ordered to pay £180,000 damages to 'paedophile' libel victims

Laurence Fox (Getty Images)
Laurence Fox (Getty Images)

Laurence Fox has been ordered to pay out £180,000 in libel damages to a drag artist and a charity boss after he referred to them as paedophiles on social media.

The actor-turned-politician was sued by ex-Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and Ru Paul’s Drag Race contestant Crystal – real name Colin Seymour - after a row on Twitter.

The spat began after Fox posted online about Sainsbury’s decision to mark Black History Month in October 2020.

He was accused of being a racist by Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, and in response he used the “paedophile” slur.

At the High Court, Fox – the former Lewis actor who now heads the Reclaim Party – was sued for libel by the two men and broadcaster Nicola Thorp, who he had also targeted in the same row. He countersued all three, claiming he had been libeled by being called a racist.In January, Mrs Justice Collins Rice dismissed Fox’s counter claims and ruled that Mr Blake and Mr Seymour had been libelled. Ms Thorp’s claim was dismissed.

On Thursday, the judge returned to the case to ordered that Fox pay £90,000 each to Mr Blake and Mr Seymour.

“By calling Mr Blake and Mr Seymour paedophiles, Mr Fox subjected them to a wholly undeserved public ordeal”, said the judge.

“It was a gross, groundless and indefensible libel, with distressing and harmful real-world consequences for them.  They are entitled by law to anaward 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.”

The judge said the damage would have been higher if the targets of the baseless slur had been more vulnerable.

“Mr Blake and Mr Seymour have been successful in fighting for their legal rights and are entitled to the law’s effective vindication”, she said.

“They have also been resilient and resourceful in trying to get on with the rest of their lives, and have had strong support at home, in the workplace and in some quarters of the public and media to help them do so.  Hadthat not been so, and Mr Fox’s random selection of victims turned out to beless self-sufficient and well-supported individuals, this award would have hadto have been considerably higher.”

The judge also decided that an injunction was necessary to stop Fox from targeting Mr Blake and Mr Seymour again online.

“I am also ordering Mr Fox not to repeat the same or similar allegations about Mr Blake and Mr Seymour, on pain of being found guilty of contempt of court”, she said.

“He has no right whatever to do so, and his track record of public utterances persuades me that this discipline is necessary and proportionate in order to ensure Mr Blake’s and Mr Seymour’s vindicated legal rights are fully respected for the foreseeable future.”

Lorna Skinner KC, representing the two men, said Fox’s libels had caused “considerable upset”.

The row started when Sainsbury’s publicised its support for Black History Month and said it was providing a safe space for its black employees.

Fox called for a boycott of the supermarket, was dubbed a “racist”, and responded with the libellous tweets.

In his evidence at the trial, Mr Seymour said he faced “overwhelming anddistressing” abuse as a result, adding: “I did and still do worry about theimpact Mr Fox’s tweet could have on me financially if people connect me, in my drag persona, with paedophilia.”

Fox, who issued an apology for the “paedophile” slurs, attempted to argue that he had used them as a baseless accusation in the same way that he considered the racism claim against him as false.

But he faced in court his old social media posts including one where he wore black face, as he was dubbed “an intelligent racist with an agenda”.

He also complained that his acting career had been torpedoed - heclaimed – by the tweets calling him a racist.

To support this argument, he put forward details of his own career trajectory with a litany of offers from 2019 and work drying up from 2021.

In the past, he says he was approached about possible roles inSuccession and Disney’s Obi-Wan, as well as TV stints in Catchphrase, TheMasked Singer, and a Gordon Ramsay show.

But he lists just nine interactions in 2021 and 2022, including anoffered online talk with Whoopi Goldberg and Sophia Loren, an approach toappear in Channel 4’s Scared of the Dark, the offer of a role in ‘MonkeyIsland’ and a possible appearance in a production called ‘Fornication Under theConsent of the King’.

In her ruling at the end of the trial, the judge found it would be “extremely long odds” for the tweets calling Fox a racist to have caused the current state of his acting career or other serious harm.