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Man sentenced for homophobic assault on Drag Race UK star

|News, Violent crime

A man has been sentenced for a homophobic assault on a Drag Race UK star at a McDonalds outlet in Liverpool.

James Lee Williams, who performs as The Vivienne, was punched in the face by Alan Whitfield, 51, at the fast-food restaurant in Edge Lane retail park in June 2023.

Whitfield, of Tom Mann Close, Everton, admitted assault by beating at a hearing at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court in August 2023 but denied the attack was motivated by homophobia.

At a hearing in the same court on 1 December 2023, Magistrates agreed with the Crown Prosecution Service that the attack was motivated "by hostility towards a perceived sexuality".

The incident was caught on CCTV which showed Mr Williams, who won the first series of TV show, Drag Race UK, being punched in the face by Whitfield.

The attack followed an altercation between the two in which Whitfield criticised Mr Williams’ appearance. Mr Williams asked him to stop but Whitfield didn’t.

Mr Williams retorted that he was better looking than Whitfield and passed comment on his complexion. Whitfield said that he had skin cancer and then punched  Mr Williams to the jaw.

The attack was witnessed by several people and there were children in the restaurant at the time.

Mr Williams was spoken to by staff and he called the police. Whitfield was arrested and charged with assault by beating.

On 5 January 2024, at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court, the Crown Prosecution Service successfully applied for Whitfield’s sentence to be uplifted because of the homophobic element.

He was given a 12-week jail term, suspended for 18 months. He also must complete 10 days of a rehabilitation activity, pay £300 in costs, compensation of £300 and a victim surcharge of £154.

The Crown Prosecution Service also successfully applied to the court for a restraining order which states that Whitfield must not contact James Williams directly or indirectly in person or via any other means including social media or  attend any performance, or venue where James Williams is performing.

In a Victim Personal Statement that was read to the court, Mr Williams said: “As a proud gay man I have never hidden who I am or edited myself in case of what others may think. However, it shames me to say that, at 31 years of age, for the first the time in my life, I am now a lot more conscious of the fact I could be attacked at any moment for simply living my authentic life. I am now constantly second-guessing social situations and feel on edge when I’m travelling alone, passing large groups of men, or even crossing the street to avoid any sort of engagement with people. This whole situation has made me become hyper-aware of the reality of the discrimination I’m still facing. It’s caused me stress, anguish and ongoing trauma. Luckily I’m a 6 ft ex-rugby player, who may wear a dress for a living, and can take a punch. I’m just glad it was me.”

Senior District Crown Prosecutor Emily Lloyd, of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “The Crown Prosecution Service prosecuted this case as a hate crime.  Alan Whitfield’s comments to Mr Williams in the run up to the assault showed hostility to his sexual orientation and appearance. He threw a punch because Mr Williams tried to stand up for himself.

“The Magistrates agreed this attack was motivated by homophobia and this allows them to increase the sentence against Mr Whitfield to reflect this fact.

“We would not have been able to prosecute this offence without the courage of the victim making a statement and coming to court to give evidence. Hate crime has devastating consequences for individuals and affects the whole community. It targets an intrinsic part of who a person is. Tackling hate crime is a priority for the CPS and we are committed to bringing perpetrators to justice. Homophobia has no place in our society, and it will not be tolerated in any form.”

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