Tommy Robinson has admitted he is facing bankruptcy after losing a libel case brought against him by a Syrian pupil who was filmed being attacked at school.
The far-right activist was ordered to pay £100,000 in damages on Thursday, as well legal costs believed to be more than £500,000, money which he says he does not have.
He was taken to court by Jamal Hijazi, who was recorded being bullied in the playground at Almondbury Community School, Huddersfield, in October 2018.
Shortly after the video went viral, Robinson claimed in two Facebook videos – viewed by nearly a million people – that Jamal, now 18, was ‘not innocent and he violently attacks young English girls in his school’.
Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – claimed Jamal ‘beat a girl black and blue’ and ‘threatened to stab’ another boy at the school, allegations the youngster denied.
Attending the remote hearing via video link, the English Defence League founder said he was ‘gobsmacked’ by the costs Mr Hijazi’s lawyers were claiming, which he said included £70,000 for taking witness statements.
He said: “I’ve not got any money. I’m bankrupt. I’ve struggled hugely with my own issues these last 12 months… I ain’t got it.”
Robinson spends donations on ‘coke and nights out’
In March it Robinson was accused of misusing supporters’ money, receiving hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding and donations despite declaring himself bankrupt.
It comes after he was listed on the insolvency register under his original name, Stephen Christopher Lennon.
Financial documents seen by The Independent hint at the huge scale of funding given to Robinson since he announced he would be “going independent” in 2018.
In just two months, Robinson received £425,000 in donations from his supporters, documents showed. He is also believed to have raised a much larger amount after being jailed for contempt of court in May 2018, despite an American group called Middle East Forum reportedly funding his defence.
Former employees have also raised questions about where the money went – but Robinson vehemently denies using any funds.
Around £10,000 was donated for a protest called ‘day for freedom’ that Robinson headlined in May 2018. But Caolan Robertson, a former far-right activist who worked with Robinson, claims money he requested to buy equipment and cover costs “never materialised”.
The video producer – who has since renounced the far-right – said he witnessed the transfer of large sums of money from a crowdfunding page into Robinson’s business account.
Robinson reportedly replied that he had “mates I’ve got to pay back for “seshes”, Robertson said. “We realised that he was withdrawing huge amounts of [donations] in cash from a business bank account, and just giving it to his friends who were selling him coke and who he owed for nights out,” he added.
“That wasn’t what we signed up for when we told our supporters that we needed it for kit, expenses, transport, security and staff costs.”
Another employee echoed those concerns, saying they were not properly compensated while working for Robinson. A third person said payments they were due were delayed for several months.
Robertson said that Robinson would brag of being “f***ing loaded” and making “mad money” when drunk, making lavish purchases including a new car and designer clothes.
Robinson has denied using cocaine and said he removed donated funds from a crowdfunding account to put them into a business account, “to run the business operations”.
“These operations have included costs of travel, accommodation, film and editing crew and social media activity,” he added. “We have also made donations to the families of child victims of grooming, for example at Christmas.”
He also claimed funds have been spent on security, “after I have been attacked or my family threatened”.