A Chelsea fan who attacked Guardian journalist and left-wing campaigner Owen Jones outside a pub was motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation and political views, a judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court has ruled.
James Healy, 40, claims he assaulted Jones because he had barged him inside the pub and didn’t apologise for spilling his drink.
Jones suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head, and bruises all down his body in the assault during his birthday night out on August 17.
Healy, who has admitted affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, faced a trial of issue at Snaresbrook Crown Court, with Jones giving evidence against him. He has admitted the assault but denies it was a hate crime.
During the trial, the court heard Healy had been photographed performing a Nazi salute and also allegedly had a football hooligan flag adorned with SS symbols and a collection of pin badges linked to white supremacist groups.
Recorder Judge Anne Studd QC ruled Healy targeted Jones: “I am satisfied so that I am sure that [Healy] holds particular beliefs that are normally associated with the far right wing.”
She added: “I therefore propose to sentence Healy on the basis that this was a wholly unprovoked attack on Mr Jones by reason of his widely published left-wing beliefs by a man who has demonstrable right-wing sympathies.”
Jones was present in court with several friends for Judge Studd’s ruling.
One of the items bore the name of the Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, whose stated aims include “execute all queers,” Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
Healy admits his face was “crunched up” in anger during a “frenzied” attack on Guardian columnist Jones outside the Lexington pub on the Pentonville Road in Islington, north London.
But denied he was motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or political views, claiming he did not know who Jones was. The writer is gay and campaigns for LGBT rights.
During legal argument, the court heard police found a black flag bearing the letters CYF [Chelsea Youth Firm], a hooligan group, when they searched Healy’s Portsmouth home.
The prosecutor said the flag was also adorned with a skull and crossbones symbol and SS lettering associated with the SS unit of the Nazis.
Officers also found badges associated with football hooliganism, as well as neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, including Combat 18, the court heard.
A birthday card, featuring a St George’s flag, the skull and crossbones and the words “you have been nominated and dealt with by the Chelsea Headhunters”, in reference to another hooligan firm, was also recovered.
Healy’s barrister, Matthew Radstone, said: “He accepts he did target him, he accepts his face was crunched up, he accepts using the word f***.
“It is an assault he has pleaded to and a frenzied one at that.”
But he argued the items are inadmissible as evidence, telling the judge: “That memorabilia is consistent with Mr Healy being a Chelsea football supporter and part of the Chelsea football supporters’ group, who express themselves with memorabilia and behaviour of the type of insignia in that manner the flags perhaps suggest.”
He said Healy has a number of convictions for football-related violence and was known as a “Chelsea risk supporter”.
Radstone had argued the items reflect his “association with Chelsea Football Club as opposed to any right-wing political beliefs he may have”.
The judge, Recorder Anne Studd QC, ruled the evidence was admissible before deciding whether the assault was motivated by homophobia or political views.
Healy, from, Portsmouth, is due to be sentenced on February 1 along with Charlie Ambrose, 30, from Brighton and Liam Tracey, 34, from Camden, who have previously pleaded guilty to affray over the incident.
Ambrose and Tracey previously both denied a charge of ABH and the charge was left to lie on file, with prosecutors accepting their actions were not motivated by homophobia.