A group of men were whipped in a homophobic attack in George Street, a court heard.
The trio, who had just left a nightclub in Oxford city centre when they were set upon outside Debenhams in George Street at 3am on September 19 last year, described hearing one of their attackers shouting ‘queer ****’.
The victim at whom the homophobic slur was aimed said he’d spat at the – unknown – man who said it. In response, the unknown attacker – who went on to make a ‘limp wrist’ gesture - punched him in the face.
Harrison Bradley, 19, who was branded an ‘idiot’ by the judge when he appeared in Oxford Crown Court yesterday to be sentenced for his part in the assault, did not throw that punch.
Instead, prosecutor Alice Aubrey-Fletcher said Bradley, then just 18-years-old, pulled off his belt and looped in his hand and whipped it at the men. The metal buckle was used like a mace to slice one victim’s head.
One of the men was left with a cut to his face and right arm and bruising. Another man suffered red marks and bruising to his torso and arm.
In victim personal statements summarised to the court by Ms Aubrey-Fletcher, the three men said they had had to take time off work and now felt anxious about going out at night. One of the men had not returned to Oxford since the attack.
The prosecutor added: “Aside from the injuries sustained by certainly two of the complainants, all three of them note their shock and upset at the homophobia and bigotry they were subjected to that evening.
“In a city they have previously felt comfortable in they had to reassess their views of how safe they actually are.”
In the wake of the attack last September, one of the three victims, Thomas Barnett, told the Oxford Mail: “Public, premeditated, homophobic violence still happens today.
"It will continue to happen as long we continue to give the embers of hatred and prejudice the oxygen to stay alight in our society. These embers will not be extinguished solely by the passing of time.
“Attacks like this will continue to happen as long as any of you remain passive, tolerant or oblivious to the latent toxicity that mutates into violence and hatred.”
In mitigation, Bradley was said to be genuinely ashamed by what he had done and had written letters to each of his victims expressing his remorse.
Tobias Smith, defending, said the youngster’s remorse was immediate, telling the police officers in the wake of the attack how sorry he was.
Earlier on the evening of the assault his girlfriend had broken up with him over the phone and he drank more than he would normally.
He was a warehouseman who had successfully finished his apprenticeship and been trained as a forklift truck driver.
Bradley, of Magnolia Close, Kidlington, pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court to causing actual bodily harm and assault by beating. He had no previous convictions.
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Sentencing, Judge Nigel Daly said: “You’re an idiot, aren’t you? [You] go out with your mates, get drunk, never been in trouble before, get into this confrontation on George Street with another group of people, behaving quite disgracefully.
“I am quite satisfied as far as all of you who were concerned who were present on your side there was homophobic hostility towards the others.
“I accept your mate got spat at but that is no reason to start belting people.”
He added: “It could have taken [your victim’s] eye out.”
Taking account of Bradley’s remorse, previous good character and realistic prospect of rehabilitation, Judge Daly said he could suspend the 14 month prison sentence for a year-and-a-half.
He was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and must pay £1,400 in compensation and £425 in costs.
This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.
To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk
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