Tommy Robinson secretly recorded conversations with school staff in an attempt to gather evidence as he is sued for libel by a teenager he accused of attacking young girls, the High Court has heard today.
The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said he ‘had to’ film people covertly, because they might not want to stand by him in court.
The 38-year-old is being sued by a Syrian refugee named Jamal Hijazi, who was filmed being attacked in Almondbury School playground in Huddersfield in November 2018 – a clip which subsequently went viral.
Jamal Hijazi, who was 16 at the time, was filmed being attacked on a school field in Huddersfield in 2018.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, later commented about the incident in two Facebook videos, claiming Jamal was ‘not innocent and he violently attacks English girls in his school,’ also alleging he ‘beat a girl black and blue’ and ‘threatened to stab another’ boy at his school.
Jamal is bringing a libel claim against Robinson, who is relying on a defence of truth.
Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, appeared at the High Court earlier today ahead of his libel trial that is due to start in April
Jamal Hijazi, suing Robinson, 38, for libel after the English Defence League founder made comments about the Syrian refugee following footage that surfaced online of Jamal being attacked on a school field in Huddersfield
Robinson told a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday that he felt it necessary to secretly record some of his conversations with school staff.
He told Mr Justice Nicklin: ‘If people were free to tell the truth, I wouldn’t be standing here.
‘Unfortunately, I felt I had to do this.’
He said the secret conversations involved ‘people (who) have good jobs in the industry’ but who are otherwise ‘scared to stand by me’.
Robinson, who is representing himself, told a previous hearing that he is depending on the evidence of seven children and five teachers.
Robinson told a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Monday that he felt it necessary to secretly record some of his conversations with school staff
Judge Nicklin said: ‘These people, I suspect, will be shocked to find they have been secretly recorded and are now featuring in a High Court libel trial.’
Robinson replied: ‘I needed to prove to people what they said.
‘I’ve only secretly recorded people because the media are about to tell people I lied, that I made it up, but I need people to know I told the truth.’
Robinson, who was jailed for contempt of court in 2019 after he breached a reporting ban on a sexual exploitation court case, also described himself in court on Monday as ‘the only journalist in the country reporting the truth’.
He said he had spent ‘the last eight weeks in Huddersfield, speaking to staff and pupils’.
A video showing Jamal, then 16, being pushed to the ground and threatened with drowning at Almondbury School, Huddersfield, provoked outrage after it went viral in November 2018
He was legally unrepresented in court but was supported by an unqualified courtroom assistant known as a McKenzie Friend.
Earlier this month at a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Robinson said he would have to represent himself at the trial.
He told Mr Justice Griffiths: ‘I can’t afford a lawyer, so I’ve not got a lawyer. I’ve been a litigant in person for the last six weeks.’
Robinson added that he owes his former solicitor ‘quite a bit of money at the minute so she’s not representing me’.
Robinson, pictured arriving at the High Court today, has previously said his defence will rely on evidence from seven children and five teachers at the school in Huddersfield
Robinson appeared at the High Court in London for a preliminary hearing today, ahead of next month’s libel trial. File photo
Footage of the attack showed a pupil approach Jamal, who is wearing a cast on his wrist, before throwing him to the ground.
The unnamed pupil then squirts a bottle of liquid in Jamal’s face, as a crowd of students gathers.
In written submissions, Mr Hijazi’s barrister, Ian Helme, said: ‘It has been over two years since the defendant published the allegations complained of.
‘They have been uncorrected in that time – indeed, the defendant has stated that he intends to prove them true at trial.
‘The claimant has had to live with that hanging over him for a very long time and it is profoundly unfair on him to delay his trial further.
‘Given the defence of truth, vindication is essential.’
The trial is due to begin on April 19.
The pre-trial hearing continues.