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Crime

Man who threatened same-sex couple walks free after gay friend comes to his defence: ‘He’s attended gay events’

Patrick Kelleher May 2, 2021
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Criminal sentencing

Alex Johnson was handed a 12 month community order for the homophobic abuse. (Envato Elements)

A man who threatened a gay couple at their home has walked away with a community service order and a fine after he produced a character notice from a gay friend in court.

Alex Johnson, 36, was handed a 12-month community service order and was ordered to pay a £120 fine after he targeted Steve Lanza and his partner Jason Smith at their home in Leek, Staffordshire.

During a hearing at North Staffordshire Justice Centre, Lanza said Johnson called them “gay b******s” when he turned up outside their home on 1 February, Metro reports.

Lanza said Johnson behaved “menacingly” and he believed the assailant was going to assault him.

Johnson finally left the couple alone after Lanza’s partner went to the window of their flat, which is above a clothes shop, and shouted back at him.

Court heard that Alex Johnson was ‘under the influence of drink and drugs’

Prosecuting, Ian Shaw told the court that Johnson was carrying a beer at the time of the incident and he was “struggling to walk”.

“It seemed quite clear that he was under the influence of drink or drugs,” Shaw said.

In a victim impact statement, Lanza said: “I have been targeted by a member of the public who I do not know at my home address.”

Lanza said he and his partner were made to feel welcome in Leek and were happy living in the community – but the homophobic abuse from Johnson left them on high alert.

The friend has never witnessed any discriminatory or homophobic behaviour from him. He’s attended gay events and clubs with Alex.

“Every time I hear a noise, I worry about what is going to happen,” Lanza said.

Defending Johnson, Angela Trafford said he was “ashamed” of his actions and insisted that he is not “homophobic”.

She went on to produce a “character notice from a friend who is gay”.

“The friend has never witnessed any discriminatory or homophobic behaviour from him. He’s attended gay events and clubs with Alex.”

Johnson pleaded guilty to using threatening words and behaviour to cause distress during the hearing. He was also instructed to complete 15 days rehabilitation as part of his sentence.

Related topics: Homophobia

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