Laurence Fox ‘paedophile’ comment did not cause reputational harm, court hears

Laurence Fox denies being a racist (Lucy North/PA)
Laurence Fox denies being a racist (Lucy North/PA)

“Nobody thought it was true” when Laurence Fox referred to two people as “paedophiles” in a Twitter spat, the High Court has heard.

The Reclaim Party founder previously claimed he had been “diminishing the ridiculousness” of being labelled “a racist” amid exchanges on the social media platform, now known as X, about a decision by Sainsbury’s to provide a safe space for black employees during Black History Month.

Mr Fox called for a boycott of the supermarket in October 2020 and was called “a racist” by the drag artist Crystal, former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake, and broadcaster Nicola Thorp.

Laurence Fox libel case
Laurence Fox denies being a racist (Lucy North/PA)

The 45-year-old subsequently termed each of the trio a “paedophile”, prompting the libel action by Mr Blake and the drag star, also known as Colin Seymour.

Mr Fox, who denies being a racist, is counter-suing the trio for libel over their tweets.

On Friday, Patrick Green KC, representing Mr Fox, argued that the Twitter spat had been started by the claimants and that his client was defending himself.

He said: “Other than upsetting trolling there wasn’t any harm in any real sense.

“What the court is considering is harm to reputation – we say there isn’t any.

“There’s a good reason for it which is that nobody thought the allegations to be true.

“No-one formed an adverse view and indeed there appears to be evidence quite to the contrary.”

He added that nothing in Mr Fox’s initial Tweet about Sainsbury’s would “lead anyone to the honest opinion that he was racist”.

Simon Blake, left to right, Nicola Thorp and Colin Seymour arriving at the Royal Courts Of Justice
Simon Blake, Nicola Thorp and Colin Seymour are being counter-sued by Mr Fox (Lucy North/PA)

The barrister added in written submissions that the libel claims by Mr Blake and Mr Seymour “should not have been brought” and that “dominant was the aim to ‘take him down’, and worse, as well as discrediting Mr Fox as he was launching his political party”.

Mr Green concluded: “Whether one agrees or disagrees with Mr Fox’s views on various topics, he is not ‘a racist’. That is important to him.”

Lorna Skinner KC, representing Mr Blake, Mr Seymour and Ms Thorp, described Mr Fox earlier on Friday as “unequivocally racist”, describing his evidence throughout the trial as lacking honesty and consistency.

She said: “Each of the claimants was honest, open, and consistent. Laurence Fox was not.

“(He) gave long rambling answers regarding the context of those Tweets (and) refused to accept that in the absence of that context his meaning could be misunderstood.

“It is notable that the more egregious examples of Mr Fox’s racism are also the most recent, which reveals a trend over time in which Mr Fox becomes increasingly emboldened to speak his mind.”

In written submissions, Ms Skinner added his explanations of what he meant in his Tweets “ranged from the nonsensical to the incredible, revealing a level of arrogance that is frankly insulting to the intelligence of everyone present at the trial.”

The barrister previously said the trio “honestly believed, and continue honestly to believe, that Mr Fox is a racist”.

Ms Skinner added the 45-year-old “has made a number of highly controversial statements about race”, adding: “If and to the extent that Mr Fox has been harmed in his reputation, it is his own conduct and not the claimants’ comments on it that caused that harm”.

The trial before Mrs Justice Collins Rice ended on Friday, with a decision expected at a later date.