The British far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson failed to show up in court on Tuesday for questioning about his finances after declaring bankruptcy during a losing libel battle with a Syrian teenager.
Jamal Hijazi successfully sued Mr Robinson, 39, over his claims that the pupil attacked young girls in school, beat a girl “black and blue” and threatened to stab another boy.
The claims were found to be false and Mr Robinson was told by a judge last year to pay the former refugee £100,000 in damages. Mr Hijazi’s legal costs were thought to be more than £500,000.
Mr Robinson, the founder of the far-right English Defence League, had already declared bankruptcy — four months after he was ordered in November 2020 to pay more than £43,000 in legal costs.
Last month, Mr Hijazi's lawyers successfully applied for an order requiring Mr Robinson to return to the High Court in London to answer questions about his finances. They claimed that he had not compiled a full account of his assets in his bankruptcy claim.
Ian Helme said Mr Robinson owed a “substantial sum” and that they intended to question him “with a view to establishing what steps would be most proportionate to take with a view to maximising recovery".
But Mr Robinson failed to turn up despite knowing “perfectly well” about the hearing, said the judge.
“It seems to me at first sight a classic situation where he has decided not to attend,” said the judge, John Dagnall.
He referred the case to a more senior judge who will decide if he committed contempt. He could potentially face a prison term.
The libel action followed comments by Mr Robinson on Facebook after Mr Hijazi, then aged 15, featured in a video that went viral showing him being assaulted at a school in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
The boy’s lawyers said that the comments had a devastating effect on the schoolboy and his family who came to the UK from Homs, Syria. The boy received death threats and “extremist agitation”.
After losing the case last year, Mr Robinson — whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon — told the court that he was “gobsmacked” by the whole costs issue and said that he did not have any money to pay.
“I have been struggling hugely with my own issues these last 12 months so I don’t know what the relevance of any of their costs are, to be honest, or the compensation, because I ain’t got it,” he said.