Football hooligan jailed for attacking Guardian columnist Owen Jones

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  • July 24, 2020
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A football hooligan who attacked columnist Owen Jones as he celebrated his birthday last year has been jailed.

A judge found James Healy, 40, targeted the Guardian writer outside a London pub because of his left-wing political beliefs and sexuality as a gay man.

Snaresbrook Crown Court heard he possessed a collection of far-right paraphernalia including a football flag adorned with SS symbols and a badge carrying the name of neo-Nazi group Combat 18.

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Healy, from Portsmouth, denied holding extremist views, claiming that Mr Jones had spilled his drink and he did not know who he was.

Judge Anne Studd QC sentenced him to two years and eight months imprisonment for assault, and 10 months to run concurrently for affray on Friday.

Following Healy’s arrest, a search of his home revealed a photograph of him performing a Nazi salute as a teenager, but he claimed his arm was held out to show off his Chelsea Youth Firm tattoo.

Healy denied holding extremist views and said the flag and pin badges were part of a wider collection of Chelsea FC memorabilia, and he was not aware of their connection to the far right.

The court heard that Healy had a string of convictions for football violence and was subject to a football banning order during his trial in January.

Co-defendants Liam Tracey, 35, from Camden, and Charlie Ambrose, 30, from Brighton, were given suspended sentences after pleading guilty to affray.

They will be jailed for eight months if they commit further offences within the next two years.

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Ambrose and Tracey previously denied a charge of actual bodily harm and it was left to lie on file, with prosecutors accepting their actions were not motivated by homophobia.

Owen Jones says he has seen ‘evidence to suggest political motivations’ to attack

Mr 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 17 August last year.

He had been celebrating with friends at The Lexington pub in Islington, north London.

The left-wing writer and commentator told the court he had been the subject of an “unrelenting” campaign of abuse by far-right sympathisers, including daily death threats.

Mr Jones said: “I’m an unapologetic socialist, I’m an anti-racist, I’m an anti-fascist and I’ve consistently used my profile to advocate left-wing causes.”

He said he had become a “hate figure” for right-wing extremists, adding: “It’s the combination of being left-wing, gay, anti-fascist – that’s everything the far-right hate.”

Last year, The Guardian hired a security team and commissioned a report because of the rising threats against Mr Jones online.

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The court heard that Mr Jones published his first book, Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class, in 2011 and landed a job as a columnist with The Independent the following year.

He moved to The Guardian in 2014 and frequently appears on radio and television on programmes.

Following the sentencing, Mr Jones said: “Prison is no solution to the growing threat of far right extremism.

“It is a menace to minorities and the left – far-right extremists and sympathisers have caused far more suffering to others who lack my media platform.

“Those responsible for radicalising far-right extremists include entire mainstream media outlets and politicians, and I hold them personally partially responsible for what happened to me and to others, too.”