Laurence Fox wants jury trial in defamation battle with Drag Race queen over ‘paedophile’ tweets

Laurence Fox and Drag Race UK star Crystal

Laurence Fox has requested a jury trial in a defamation case brought by Drag Race UK’s Crystal and two others after he labelled them “paedophiles”.

Crystal, former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and Coronation Street actor Nicola Thorp launched the hefty lawsuit after the former Lewis actor hurled the slur at them in a heated Twitter row in October 2020.

In turn, Fox, 43, is counter-suing the trio over tweets accusing him of racism.

In a hearing on Thursday (28 April), Fox’s lawyers asked for the case to be decided by a jury rather than a judge, which is not a common request in defamation cases.

According to the Law Gazette, it would be the first jury trial for libel in over a decade.

Former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake is also suing Laurence Fox
Former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake is also suing Laurence Fox over the rant

Marzec told the court that the actor was counter-suing to “clear his name from the false slur” of being called racist and argued that a jury would be better at reaching fair verdicts “in light of the cultural and social context of this case”.

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She said: “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.”

Marzec argued that the diversity of a 12-person jury would strengthen the standing of the ruling, as it would be “incapable of being undermined on the lazy basis that a white judge sided with a white man who denied being racist”.

She added: “There is a risk that in this particular case a judge could show involuntary bias towards one of the parties. …

“The basis of our application for a jury is that this dispute includes the important question of what racism is.

“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.”

However, Heather Rogers QC, for the trio, called this “such a bad argument” and said there would be no need to define racism.

She said: “To say the judiciary has already come to a view about what racism is is a very bad argument. …

“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.”

Rogers added in written submissions that they “can see no good reason for the court to order jury trial in this case… There is nothing in this”.

Rogers later claimed that there was no suggestion made by anyone in the case that her three clients were paedophiles, and that Fox’s case is that “he was using a rhetorical device”.

Nicola Thorp attends the Pride of Manchester Awards 2019
Nicola Thorp attends the Pride of Manchester Awards 2019 (Carla Speight/Getty Images)

Mr Justice Nicklin, the judge hearing Fox’s bid for a jury trial, is yet to make a ruling on how the case should be heard. The judge did comment that juries could feature people with “real bias or real prejudice towards one or more parties”.

Nicklin noted that the judge hearing the trial would still be involved in the case, adding that jurors “are not going to be left like sheep on an open headland”.

A decision will be made at a later date.

Crystal and Blake initially threatened legal action that same year but officially filed the claim in the High Court on 1 April. All three claimants are now jointly represented by the law firm Patron Law.

Fox, who has turned to politics and ran in the London mayoral elections – winning so few votes that he lost his £10,000 election deposit – attended the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London with his lawyer.

The row was prompted by Fox’s bizarre claim that Sainsbury’s supermarket was “promot[ing] racial segregation and discrimination” by celebrating Black History Month.

Crystal, Blake and Thorp all said that they disagreed with Fox’s view, with Blake describing Fox as a “racist t**t”. The Stonewall chief later said he regretted using such language.

Fox responded to the criticism by furiously labelling his detractors as “paedophiles”.

In a statement announcing their intention to sue, Crystal said at the time: “I will not stand for racism when I see it, and I will not stand for homophobic defamation when it is directed at me.

“An accusation of paedophilia is one of the oldest homophobic tropes, and it was very shocking to have that levelled at me, not just by Laurence Fox, but also his many followers who believed him. I may have had to endure homophobic bullying as a child, but I will not tolerate it as an adult.”

Fox eventually deleted the offensive tweets, saying at the time that he’d taken them down after being “repeatedly, continuously and falsely smeared as a racist”. He later admitted he had been dropped by his agent over the row.

He told Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine that he used the slur “in response, possibly, to 10 months now of being called a racist by people on Twitter”.

Fox added: “If the point is that words mean nothing, seeing as it’s a totally baseless allegation and is entirely in opposition to what my feelings are, I thought, you know what, if words meaning nothing nowadays, I can call you anything I want in return.”