Football hooligan, 40, jailed for attack on journalist Owen Jones

24 July 2020, 18:54

Owen Jones suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head following the attack
Owen Jones suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head following the attack. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The football hooligan who attacked Guardian columnist Owen Jones in August last year has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.

James Healy, 40, who has a string of convictions for football-related violence, admitted to assaulting the journalist outside a pub last summer.

However, he denied the attack was motivated by Mr Jones' sexuality or his political allegiances and campaigns.

Healy claimed he did not know who the Guardian columnist was.

During the two-day hearing to determine the motive, Recorder Judge Anne Studd QC found the unprovoked attack could only be motivated by Mr Jones's media profile as a left-wing polemicist.

She said: "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 and LGBTQ beliefs by a man who has demonstrable right-wing sympathies."

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Owen Jones outside Snaresbrook Crown Court in January
Owen Jones outside Snaresbrook Crown Court in January. Picture: PA

A search of Healy's home following his arrest found several items connected to far-right ideology, including a collection of pin badges that are linked to white supremacist groups.

The Chelsea Football Club fan told the court he "had the hump" after Mr Jones bumped into him during the night in question, which led to him spilling his drink.

The victim was left with cuts and swellings on his back and head, plus bruising all down his body following the attack outside the Lexington pub on the Pentonville Road in Islington, north London, on 17 August 2019.

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."

Appearing at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday, the football hooligan was given a two-year, eight-month prison sentence for affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

His two co-defendants - Charlie Ambrose, from Brighton, and Liam Tracey, from Camden - were given suspended sentences of eight months each, suspended for two years after pleading guilty to affray over the incident.