LONDON: Anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson faces a potential jail sentence after failing to appear at a High Court hearing on Tuesday to be questioned about his finances after losing a libel case.
The English Defence League founder, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was due to appear in court over unpaid legal bills after he was successfully sued by Syrian refugee student Jamal Hijazi last year.
A video of Hijazi, who was 15 at the time, being assaulted at a school in the north of England, where his family had settled after fleeing Syria, went viral in October 2018.
Robinson claimed in two subsequent Facebook videos that Hijazi was “not innocent” and claimed he “violently attacked young English girls in his school.”
Hijazi sued Robinson for libel in July 2021, where a High Court judge later ruled Robinson’s claims to be untrue and ordered him to pay the student £100,000 ($132,632) in damages and more than £43,000 in legal costs.
After his victory, Hijazi vowed to use the money to establish a charity for young people who have been bullied.
The former EDL chief declared bankruptcy four months later, a filing which has since been discharged, with Hijazi’s lawyers successfully applying for an order requiring Robinson to return to court to face questioning over his finances.
A High Court judge will decide whether Robinson is in contempt of court.
Judge John Dagnall told Tuesday’s hearing that Robinson knew “perfectly well” that he was required to attend court for questioning, as he had previously emailed the court asking for his hearing to be adjourned.
“It seems to me at first sight a classic situation where he has decided not to attend,” Dagnall said, adding that all he could do was refer Robinson’s non-attendance to a High Court judge.
“They may, if he or she chooses to do so, hold Mr. Yaxley-Lennon in contempt.”