Archive

Tag Archives: Liam Tracey

James Healy given prison term for ‘frenzied and unprovoked attack’ outside London pub

A Chelsea football fan was jailed for two years and eight months for committing an aggravated assault on the Guardian columnist Owen Jones with a “karate kick to his lower back”, motivated by hostility to the writer’s leftwing and LGBT politics.

James Healy, 40, from Portsmouth, was sentenced at Snaresbrook crown court for “a frenzied and wholly unprovoked attack” last August that took place in the street late at night after Jones had been out celebrating his birthday.

Recorder Anne Studd, the presiding judge, said there were “very significant aggravating factors” as she handed down the sentence to Healy at the high end of the range available.

The judge described Healy as “a man holding extreme rightwing opinions who attacked a victim who did no more than hold opinions on which the defendant did not agree”.

Two other men, Liam Tracey, 35, from Camden, London, and Charlie Ambrose, 31, from Brighton, were also sentenced for their part in the assault.

Tracey and Ambrose received an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years. Both had pleaded guilty last December although the conclusion of the case was delayed for several months due to the coronavirus crisis.

The court heard how Jones was attacked from behind by Healy at 2am outside the Lexington pub in King’s Cross, north London, having recognised the journalist and commentator in the pub earlier in the evening.

Jones was knocked to the ground and injured after being struck, and was “spared further blows only by the actions of the friends who were with him”, Studd said as she read out her judgment. A general fight then broke out involving Healy and the other two defendants.

In a victim impact statement, Jones said that while the injuries he sustained healed rapidly, there had been a longer lasting psychological impact. Despite previously being on the receiving end of online abuse, it was the first time he had been subject to a physical attack.

Philip McGhee, prosecuting, said Jones believed it was “harder to ignore online threats now” and that “he no longer feels he can walk alone, and will take taxis even for short distances as on account of this attack he feels at risk”.

The three men were not detained in the immediate aftermath of the fight in the street, but the court heard that they were arrested after they were recognised from CCTV footage by officers familiar with Chelsea supporters known to police.

Healy had at least nine convictions relating to football hooliganism stretching back to 1998. A search of his property after his arrest revealed a collection of far-right hooligan memorabilia, loosely connected with the Chelsea Youth Firm.

McGhee, prosecuting, said Healy possessed “a greeting card, which bore Nazi far-right extremist terror symbols, including those associated with the far-right Combat 18 group, one of whose tenets is ‘kill all queers’”.

Also discovered was a Nazi SS flag bearing a “totenkopf” death’s head skull symbol plus “a number of pins of badges”, including a circular pin badge with the “lead the way” and “whatever it takes” motto of Combat 18 and a badge that said “Chelsea FC no asylum seekers”.

Healy had pleaded guilty to the charges of actual body harm and affray but a special fact-finding hearing in January ruled that the “wholly unprovoked assault” was aggravated because Jones had been targeted because of his pro-LGBT and leftwing political views. Healy was also sentenced for 10 months for affray, served concurrently.

The judge concluded Jones had been identified in the pub by Healy or one of his friends earlier in the evening and that they had identified him as a target for attack.

CCTV footage showed Healy appearing to motion to friends outside the pub that Jones was leaving – and that he then followed him to launch “a running kick” on Jones in the small hours.

After the sentencing, Jones said: “Prison isn’t a solution to far right extremism: it’s a political problem which can’t be magicked away by custodial sentences. But if any good comes of this case, it’s to focus attention on a far-right threat which poses a violent threat to minorities and the left, including to those who have suffered far more than me”.

A Guardian spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the police and courts have now dealt with those responsible for this terrible attack. Assaults on journalists or political activists have no place in a decent society.”

The Guardian

A convicted football hooligan from Portsmouth launched an unprovoked attack on Guardian columnist and left-wing activist Owen Jones because of his sexuality and political views, a judge has ruled.

James Healy, 40, of Laburnum Grove in Portsmouth

James Healy, 40, of Laburnum Grove in Portsmouth

James Healy, 40, of Laburnum Grove, North End, admitted assaulting Mr Jones outside a pub in August last year, but claimed he ‘had the hump’ because the victim had bumped into him and spilled his drink.

But the Chelsea FC fan – who has a string of convictions for football-related violence – denied being motivated by Mr Jones’s sexuality or political campaigning, claiming he didn’t even know who he was.

Assaults deemed to be hate crimes can attract significantly longer sentences from the courts.

Following his arrest, a search of Healy’s home found a number of items connected to far-right ideology including a collection of pin badges linked to white supremacist groups.

Following a two-day hearing to determine Healy’s motive, Recorder Judge Anne Studd QC ruled on Friday that the unprovoked attack could only be motivated by Mr Jones’s media profile as a left-wing polemicist.

She said Healy had ‘plenty of opportunity to remonstrate’ with Mr Jones in the pub if he had unwittingly spilled his drink, and made no attempt to do so.

Instead he followed him outside and kicked him to the floor from behind.

She said: ‘Mr Jones can be seen (on CCTV) to leave the premises followed by Mr Healy and his co-defendants who can be seen looking across – he doesn’t approach him to remonstrate with him about the spilled beer.

This was a deliberate and targeted attack on Mr Jones personally.’

She continued: ‘I don’t find that this was motivated by a drink spillage – this was a brutal, surprise assault with no warning what so ever. It was clearly targeted.

‘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 Mr 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.’

Mr Jones suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head, and bruises all down his body in the incident outside the Lexington pub on the Pentonville Road in Islington, north London, on August 17.

Among the incriminating items found at Healy’s home was a photograph of him as a teenager allegedly performing a Nazi salute. Healy also had a football hooligan flag adorned with SS symbols.

One of the items bore the name of the Combat 18 neo-Nazi group, whose stated aims include ‘execute all queers’, the court heard.

A birthday card featuring a St George’s flag, skull and crossbones and the words: ‘You have been nominated and dealt with by the Chelsea Headhunters’, in reference to the notorious hooligan firm, was also recovered.

Healy said the items dated back to his time in the violent Chelsea Youth Firm.

He claimed he had kept them because he is a hoarder, and that he did not know the memorabilia’s connection to the far-right and white supremacist movements.

Asked if he held homophobic or racist views, he replied: ‘No, it’s 2020.’

Healy said that, in the photograph in which he is allegedly performing a Nazi salute, his arm is held out to the right to show off his Chelsea Youth Firm tattoo.

‘I’ve looked up the Nazi salute online, I’ve never seen a picture where their arm is out to the side – it’s always out in front,’ he said.

In her ruling, Judge Studd accepted that it could not be proven Healy was performing a Nazi salute in the picture.

In his evidence, 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.’

Mr Jones has almost one million Twitter followers, 125,000 followers on Instagram and 350,000 followers on Facebook.

‘Almost every single day I am the subject of an unrelenting campaign (of abuse) by far-right sympathisers,’ he said.

He added: ‘In January last year, I was informed by an anti-fascist organisation I had become one of the main hate figures of online far-right extreme Facebook groups.’

The level of threat prompted the Guardian to hire security team for him.

Mr Jones denied spilling Healy’s drink, insisting: ‘That absolutely did not happen.

‘If I thought I had accidentally spilled someone’s drink, I would apologise profusely, I would say ‘I’m so sorry’ and I would insist – whether they liked it or not – on buying them another drink.’

The defendant pleaded guilty to affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm at a previous hearing.

Healy’s co-defendants Charlie Ambrose, 30, from Brighton, and Liam Tracey, 34, from Camden, who have previously pleaded guilty to affray over the incident, are due to be sentence on February 11.

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.

A date for Healy’s sentencing has yet to be set.

Portsmouth News