Owen Jones

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Owen Jones was attacked during a night out to celebrate his birthday

A man launched an unprovoked attack on Guardian columnist Owen Jones because of his sexuality and political views, a judge has ruled.

James Healy, 40, admitted assaulting Mr Jones by The Lexington pub in Islington last year but claimed it was because the 35-year-old had spilled his drink.

However, Mr Jones said he “absolutely did not” spill the drink.

At the end of a two-day hearing, the judge ruled the attack could only have been due to his media profile.

Recorder Judge Anne Studd QC said Healy, of Portsmouth, would have had “plenty of opportunity to remonstrate” with Mr Jones in the pub if he had spilled the drink but made no attempt to do so.

“This was a deliberate and targeted attack on Mr Jones personally,” she said.

Following Healy’s arrest, a search of his home revealed a photograph of him performing a Nazi salute.

The court heard the photo showed him as a teenager but had been printed out in 2015.

Healy, who has admitted affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, faced a trial of issue to determine his motivation for attacking Mr Jones.

In her ruling Judge Studd said that while it could not be proven Healy had been performing a Nazi salute in the photograph, she was “sure that [Healy] holds particular beliefs that are normally associated with the far right wing”.

“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,” she said.

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Mr Jones told the court some people see him as a “hate figure”

Mr Jones suffered cuts and swelling to his back and head and bruises all down his body in the assault which happened on his birthday night out on 17 August.

In his evidence at Snaresbrook Crown Court, the journalist 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.

“What I use these platforms for is to advocate left-wing ideas and a passion and unwavering commitment to opposing racism, fascism, Islamophobia and homophobia,” he told the court.

“Almost every single day I am the subject of an unrelenting campaign [of abuse] by far-right sympathisers.

“They’ve come to see me as this hate figure in their ranks.”

Mr Jones said he received death threats on a daily basis, adding: “It’s the combination of being left-wing, gay, anti-fascist – that’s everything the far right hate.”

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Owen Jones had been drinking in The Lexington in Islington

Describing the evening of the attack, Mr Jones said: “My recollection is that I was saying goodbye to a friend and then I was on the floor completely disoriented.

“In those 10 seconds, I don’t really remember what happened because I was attacked from behind, I had no sense of what was going to happen.”

When asked about the claim he had knocked Mr Healy’s drink, he said: “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 court heard Healy has a string of convictions for football violence and is currently subject to a football banning order for encroaching on a pitch.

He also allegedly had a football hooligan flag adorned with SS symbols and a collection of pin badges linked to white supremacist groups.

Healy told the court: “I’m a hoarder. I never throw anything away. I just had them all that time tucked away in the back of a drawer.

“Bearing in mind they came into my possession in 1998, there was no internet back then, the information now is easily available.

“As far as I knew, they were connected to football and football violence.”

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

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