Laurence Fox loses bid for jury to hear libel battle with Drag Race queen over ‘paedophile’ tweets

Laurence Fox took to Twitter to call LGBT+ people "paedophiles"

Out-of-work actor and failed mayoral candidate Laurence Fox has failed to secure a jury trial for his defamation case, after he accused several people of being “paedophiles”.

In October 2020, Laurence Fox described Drag Race UK’s Crystal, former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake and Coronation Street actor Nicola Thorp as “paedophiles” in a row over Sainsbury’s.

The former Lewis actor announced that he would be boycotting Sainsbury’s because it celebrated Black History Month, calling others to join him and accusing the supermarket of “racial segregation and discrimination”.

Called out for racism, he told Crystal, Blake and Thorp that they were “paedophiles”, before deleting the tweets the next day.

When the three of them launched a defamation case against him, he filed a countersuit over the accusations of racism.

Last month, Laurence Fox and his barrister Alexandra Marzec asked for a jury trial, a rarity in a defamation case, claiming that “a judge could show involuntary bias”.

Marzec said that “the basis of our application for a jury is that this dispute includes the important question of what racism is”, and that a jury would be “pooling their life experience and use of the English language to determine the natural and ordinary meaning of that word” and would be “incapable of being undermined on the lazy basis that a white judge sided with a white man who denied being racist”.

But in a judgment on Wednesday (18 May), judge Mr Justice Nicklin described Fox’s argument as “somewhat nebulous”, according to the Evening Standard.

He said a jury trial would vastly increase the length and cost of the case, and would “disable the court from performing any meaningful case management”.

Nicklin continued: “Not only does that mean that a defamation action will cost more and take longer during its procedural and trial phases, it raises, as it always did, the spectre of the waste of enormous costs on the trial of issues that are ultimately found to be irrelevant.

“A return to such an inconvenient mode of trial would require the most compelling justification.”

In regards to Laurence Fox’s point about deciding the definition of the word “racist”, he added: “Perhaps more importantly, because the definition to be applied to ‘racism’ in this case is a core issue, necessarily the judge deciding this issue will have to give a reasoned judgment on this very point.

“That is a better safeguard of avoiding error than directing a jury trial.”

In a statement, a “disappointed” Fox said: “I believed this was an ideal case for a jury to sit, especially considering the emotive and zeitgeist issues in play.

“I think this places any trial judge in the invidious position of having to define ‘racism’ in the 21st century, where I am asking that judge to adopt a common-sense definition completely at odds with the Equal Treatment Bench Book, a document which dictates to judges to think about ‘racism’ in a particular way and act accordingly in their courts every single day.

“Nonetheless, I fight on and am confident justice will be served.”

The next hearing for the case has been set for 26 May 2022.