UK’s English Defence League Cofounder Goes Gambling, Declares Bankruptcy

Posted on: June 10, 2022, 05:25h. 

Last updated on: June 10, 2022, 11:45h.

Last year, a British court told Tommy Robinson, the cofounder of the far-right Islamophobic group English Defence League (EDL), to pay £500,000 (US$624,300) to settle a libel suit. He hasn’t complied, but hasn’t had any issues spending money gambling before declaring bankruptcy.

Tommy Robinson
Tommy Robinson, cofounder and former head of the anti-Islam group English Defence League. He appeared in court yesterday on allegations he is in contempt of court. (Image: The Independent)

Jamal Hijazi sued Robinson (legally Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) for libel after he was attacked in October 2018 at Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield. After a video of the incident flooded social media, Robinson claimed that Hijazi violently attacked English girls at the school.

Robinson, a former member of the British National Party, added that Hijazi had “beaten a girl black and blue” and threatened to stab another boy. These claims were proven false in court last summer. As a result, the judge ordered Robinson to pay £43,293 (US$54.072) for legal costs after a November 2020 pre-trial hearing. However, Robinson apparently had other plans.

Disregarding the Law

After Hijazi’s successful lawsuit for libel, a judge ordered Robinson to pay damages of £100,000 (US$124,930). He also had to pay the plaintiff’s legal expenses, approximately £500,000.

Robinson allegedly didn’t comply with the judge’s order. As a result, Hijazi’s lawyers petitioned the court to force Robinson to appear and answer any questions regarding his finances. A judge fulfilled the request, and Robinson was due back in court in March.

The EDL founder didn’t appear. He informed the High Court last month that he missed the hearing because of mental health issues resulting from harassment. However, he finally appeared yesterday at a hearing in London, the BBC reports.

Robinson described himself as a “disaster with paper” during questioning by the High Court about his finances. He also told the court he owed £160,000 (US$199,872) to HM Revenue and Customs, the British tax authority. However, he later stated that this was only an estimate.

He also said that he had spent approximately £100,000 gambling two years before declaring bankruptcy. He said, “I sold a property and received the money. I then spent it.” However, other reports indicate that some of that money may have come through donations he received.

Robinson also tried to claim mental distress. He said he suffers from PTSD and that the public fallout has been too much. He complained that he hasn’t been able to open a bank account, with NatWest, HSBC, and Lloyds shutting him down. It’s not all bad, though, as Robinson has been able to open an account with an unidentified online bank.

Misguided Direction

The EDL pushes the same rhetoric about Islam as other hate groups. For example, it denounces Muslim extremism but then puts all Muslims in that category. Robinson led the group from 2009 to 2013.

During his hearing yesterday, Robinson also answered questions about his autobiography, Enemy Of The State. In it, he claimed that seven properties were in his or his wife’s names when he helped establish the EDL in 2009.

However, he acknowledged that there weren’t seven properties. He shrugged when asked if he believed the book was false and said he had written it years ago. His excuse was that he had used a ghost-writer to help him with the book.

During the hearing, there were also questions about his paid employment with a Canadian far-right news site and an online media startup. He acknowledged a relationship with them but added that he didn’t receive a salary because “they haven’t got any.”

Robinson must return to court in August to determine if he has committed contempt of court.