Laurence Fox has asked for a jury trial for his libel battle against three public figures he referred to as “paedophiles” on Twitter, claiming a High Court judge might show ‘involuntary bias’.
The former ‘Lewis’ actor, turned founder of the ‘anti-woke’ Reclaim Party, is being sued by Stonewall trustee Simon Blake, Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp and Drag Race UK star Crystal, following an online row in October 2020.
The exchange took place after Fox went on a Twitter rant about supermarket chain Sainsbury’s celebrating Black History Month.
At the time, the supermarket responded to criticism for endorsing BHM, saying it was “proud” to be an “inclusive retailor” who celebrates the occasion and anyone unhappy with it doing so is “welcome to shop elsewhere”.
Fox accepted the ultimatum, tweeting: “I won’t be shopping in your supermarket ever again while you promote racial segregation and discrimination. I sincerely hope others join me.”
He was met with criticism for the outburst and many accused him of racism in the process.
Following the backlash, in since deleted tweets (below), Fox made the decision to start accusing some critics of being “paedophiles”.
Crystal, a former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, known outside of Drag as Colin Munro Seymour, tweeted: ‘Imagine being so proud of being a racist, so cringe!’
Fox replied, ‘says the paedophile.’
Nicola Thorp wrote: ‘Any company giving future employment to Laurence Fox or providing him with a platform does so with the complete knowledge that he is unequivocally, publicly and undeniably a racist.’
To which Fox replied: ‘Any company giving future employment to Nicola Thorpe or providing her with a platform does so with the complete knowledge that she is unequivocally, publicly and undeniably a paedophile.’
While Stonewall trustee and LGBT+ advocate Simon Blake, said: ‘What a mess, what a racist t**t’.
To which Fox replied ‘pretty rich coming from a paedophile.’
Simon Blake, Nicola Thorp and Crystal subsequently launched a lawsuit.
In turn, Fox, 43, is counter-suing the trio over tweets accusing him of racism.
During a hearing on Thursday (28 April), Fox’s lawyer, Alexandra Marzec, informed the court that the actor was counter-suing to ‘clear his name from the false slur’ of being called racist.
Fox’s lawyers also requested a jury trial for the actor’s libel battle, which is incredibly rare civil cases in the UK. If accepted it would be the first jury trial for libel in over a decade, as reported by Law Gazette.
Marzec said that a jury would be better at reaching fair verdicts ‘in light of the cultural and social context of this case’.
She continued: ‘On a question like this, “what is a racist?”, a judge is not helped by knowledge of the law, or being a skilled jurist or even high intellectual capacity.
‘He or she is assisted by his or her own life experience and knowledge of the English language.’
The barrister said the jury was also more likely to be diverse than a single High Court judge.
“With a jury trial, there would be 12 people from a diverse range of backgrounds who could come to a decision. London is a diverse city and there would have to be people from ethnic minorities.”
Marzec added: ‘All 12 people pooling their life experience and use of the English language to determine the natural and ordinary meaning of that word… A jury simply would be better at doing that task than one judge.’
The lawyer noted that the diversity of a jury would leave any ruling, ‘incapable of being undermined on the lazy basis that a white judge sided with a white man who denied being racist’.
However Heather Rogers, QC for the three claimants’ lawyer, called the request a ‘very bad argument’, adding that there was ‘no need’ for a jury trial or to define racism.
‘To say the judiciary has already come to a view about what racism is is a very bad argument”, Rogers said.
‘The Bench Book is guidance about how to treat people in court. It is not the law. ‘Regarding Ms Marzec’s point about the definition of racism or racist, there is a fallacy here.
‘They said an ordinary English word. It is not difficult to work out what the meaning is.”
Adding: “We do not need to decide what racism means. You can decide whether it is an opinion or not”
‘There is every reason for a judge trial. There is no reason for a jury trial.”
A ruling on whether a jury will hear the case has not yet been set.