Football fan who attacked Owen Jones denies homophobia and claims the left-wing campaigner 'spilled his pint'

Martin Evans
James Healy has denied the attack on Owen Jones was homophobic - Central News

A man accused of launching a homophobic attack on the left-wing activist, Owen Jones, had flag adorned with SS symbols and had been been photographed performing a Nazi salute, a court has heard.

James Healy, 40, was one of a group of men who admitted carrying out a "frenzied attack" on the Guardian journalist outside a north London pub in August last year.

Prosecutors claimed the attack was motivated by the victim's sexual orientation and political views.

But Healy insisted he did recognise Mr Jones and had clashed with him simply because he had bumped into him, spilling his drink and had failed to apologise.

However Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that Healy had items at his home that suggested he was a supporter of the extreme neo-Nazi group Combat 18, whose stated aims include "execute all queers".

The Chelsea supporter was also allegedly in possession of a football hooligan flag adorned with SS symbols and a collection of pin badges linked to white supremacist groups.

Healy, who has admitted affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm, is facing a trial of issue at Snaresbrook Crown Court, with Mr Jones expected to give evidence against him on Friday.

Owen Jones was attacked outside a pub in North London in August last year Credit: PA

Prosecutor Philip McGhee said: "It is said, based on the evidence, that the assault was motivated by hostility borne by the defendant towards the victim either due to the victim's sexual orientation or political views, or both.

"The defendant asserts the only motivation is something that happened between him and the victim inside the public house, outside which the assault took place."

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.

The hearing is taking place at Snaresbrook Crown Court

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.

Mr McGhee described a photograph of Healy "with his right arm raised straight out in front of him to the right."

"It is plainly, when viewed in relation to all the other items in Mr Healy's premises, a Nazi salute," he said.

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

"The person who possesses these items, it can be properly inferred, holds, or has sympathies for, white supremacist, far-right organisations, and we say that with specific reference to Combat 18," the prosecutor said.

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."

Owen Jones is a Guardian journalist and left wing campaigner

He said Healy has a number of convictions for football-related violence and was known as a "Chelsea risk supporter".

Mr Radstone 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 and she must now decide 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.

The trial of issue continues on Friday.