Laurence Fox loses bid for High Court libel case to be heard in front of jury

The libel case against Laurence Fox will not be heard in front of a  jury despite his requests.

The Lewis actor is being sued by former Stonewall trustee Simon Blake, former Coronation Street actress Nicola Thorp, and drag artist Crystal after he referred to them as “paedophiles” online.

The row erupted when Mr Fox announced a boycott of Sainsbury’s following its decision to celebrate Black History Month, alleging it was “promoting racial segregation and discrimination”.

Mr Blake, Ms Thorp and Crystal in turn accused him of racism, prompting him to countersue.

My Fox’s lawyers last month asked the case be decided by a jury rather than a judge – which is highly unusual in defamation cases – arguing it would ensure a fairer verdict to be reached given the “cultural and social context of this case”.

However, the request was dismissed after the judge said there was no evidence the presiding judge would be biased.

Mr Justice Nicklin said: “The defendant has not satisfied me that a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility that a judge trying this case alone would suffer from ‘involuntary bias’.

Mr Fox unsuccessfully stood as a candidate in the last London mayoral election

“The fair-minded and informed observer must be taken to know that, faithful to his/her judicial oath, the judge in this case would be required to apply the law to the determination of the issues in the case, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

He continued: “Because the definition to be applied to ‘racism’ in this case is a core issue, the judge deciding the case will have to give a reasoned judgement on that point.

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

Mr Fox’s lawyers argued a jury would be more suited for the libel trial because a written judgement would increase the likelihood of an appeal, adding “culture war cases are magnets for appeals”. But that was quickly shut down by Mr Justice Nicklin.

Jury verdicts proved difficult to appeal because juries do not usually give their reasons, and, therefore, any errors in the law cannot easily be seen.

Mr Justice Nicklin continued: “If the judge has made an error in his/her approach to determination of the issues relating to ‘racism’, then the Court of Appeal, and ultimately the Supreme Court, exist to put right that error.”

“Permission to appeal is given on the basis that the grounds of appeal have a real prospect of success or that there is some other compelling reason to grant permission.

“Permission is not given on the basis that the decision relates to a ‘culture war’.”

Mr Fox said an ordinary reader would have recognised his words “were ‘tit-for-tat vulgar abuse’, which did not bear a literal meaning that the claimants were paedophiles, and that the defendant ‘was giving the claimants a taste of their own medicine’”.

The judge also noted that both sides of the case have been “locked in a protracted period of unproductive and argumentative correspondence that fills almost an entire ring-binder”.

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.