Gay journalist Owen Jones says the vicious attack on him is proof the UK isn’t fighting far-right extremism properly
Owen Jones has spoken out about the UK’s problem with far-right extremism, after a man was jailed for a premeditated and violent attack on the Guardian journalist last summer.
Jones, 35, was assaulted on his birthday last August outside a North London pub by James Healy, 40, who on 24 July was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Healy, who has a string of convictions for football violence, admitted assault but claimed that he attacked Jones for spilling his drink. Jones told the court he “absolutely did not” knock Healy’s drink.
A judge ruled that the attack on Jones was because of his “widely published left-wing and LGBT+ beliefs”.
Speaking to LBC’s James O’Brien four days after Healy was jailed and two other men were given suspended sentences in connection with the assault, in which he suffered cuts, swelling to his back and head, and bruises down his body, Owen Jones said that “prison isn’t a solution”.
“He’ll go into prison a far-right thug and he’ll probably leave the same,” Jones said, adding that “we don’t deal with rehabilitation, de-radicalisation in the way we should” in the UK.
O’Brien noted that after his arrest, police searched Healy’s home and found “a photograph of him performing a Nazi salute, other items connected to far-right ideology and some particularly pungent homophobic material”.
Discussing the onset of far-right radicalisation in the UK, Jones said that we must think about “who are the hate preachers in society radicalising far-right extremists”.
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“We have migrants, Muslims, refugees, demonised and attacked often in the most vicious way often based on outright lies,” Jones continued.
He went on to claim that there is an issue with “the way minorities and people on the progressive side of politics” are portrayed by the press, saying that the way minorities are criticised by mainstream media is a factor in extremism.
“Vilification has, I think, legitimised this sort of hatred that leads to far-right extremism,” he said.
Jones also revealed that he “wasn’t surprised” by the attack. “I do think we need that wider discussion because as I’ve said, there are people in this country who have been killed by extremists.”