Man sentenced for homophobic attack on The Vivienneon January 5, 2024 at 12:38 pm

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The attacker received a 12-week suspended sentence for the attack in a Liverpool McDonald’s.

A drag queen in a pink feathered gown poses with a blonde wigImage source, Getty Images

A man has been handed a 12-week suspended sentence after a homophobic attack on Drag Race UK’s The Vivienne.

James Lee Williams, better known as The Vivienne, was punched in the face at a Liverpool McDonald’s last June.

Alan Whitfield, 51, of Tom Mann Close, Everton, admitted assault by beating at a hearing in 2023, but denied the attack was homophobic.

Magistrates ruled the attack was motivated by “hostility” towards Mr Williams’ sexuality.

Whitfield was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for 18 months.

He was also given a two-year restraining order and told not to contact Mr Williams directly or indirectly, which includes a ban on attending any of his performances.

In a victim personal statement read to the court, Mr Williams said the incident had left him feeling scared when out in public, for the first time in his life.

The court heard he was subjected to a “barrage of abuse” before being struck in the face with a “heavy blow”.

He said: “As a proud gay man, I have never hidden who I am or edited myself.

“It shames me to say at the age of 31, I am now a lot more conscious that I could be attacked at any moment simply for living my life. This has caused me stress, anguish and ongoing trauma.”

Mr Williams said when he came into contact with strangers, he now thought: “I hope this person likes gay people”, which he said was a “a crazy question to ask in 2023”.

Mr Williams, who won the first series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and came third in last year’s Dancing On Ice, was bruised and hurt for a week, Liverpool Magistrates’ Court was told.

District Judge Paul Healey told Whitfield: “Your behaviour really was appalling on that day.”

Speaking outside court, Whitfield said he “lost his rag”.

At an earlier hearing, held to determine whether or not the assault was motivated by homophobia, the court heard how the incident began when Whitfield made a comment about Mr Williams’ appearance.

He admitted comparing him to an Oompa Loompa – a character from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – and saying: “Look at the state of that. Who are you trying to impress?”

After a back and forth between the two, Mr Williams said he eventually retaliated by making a comment about Whitfield’s skin.

CCTV footage played in court showed Whitfield punching Mr Williams, and then leaving the restaurant.

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Mr Williams said he dressed in a “flamboyant” way and was used to “looks” and “stares”, but had never been physically assaulted before.

He said: “There were countless other people in the branch of McDonald’s that day. Why didn’t he start on anyone else? Why did he choose to publicly humiliate me and then hit me, if it wasn’t for my image or me being quite evidently gay?”

In a 999 call which was played to the jury, Mr Williams said: “He obviously knew I was gay, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist.”

Defending, Richard Derby said the attack was due to Whitfield, who has been diagnosed with skin cancer and has scarring from treatment as well as several moles, feeling upset and angry after the comments made about his appearance.

Whitfield, who cried during some of the evidence being read, claimed he had not noticed that Mr Williams was gay and was trying to have “banter”.

A pre-sentence report assessed Whitfield, who has previous convictions for harassment, affray and drug possession, as a “low risk” of reoffending.

Alan Whitfield outside Liverpool Magistrates' Court

Delivering the magistrates’ verdict in December, Chair of the Bench Anthony Canning said that the defendant’s evidence was “not credible”.

He said: “Having considered this incident from beginning to end we believe beyond reasonable doubt that the hostility shown by yourself from the outset was motivated by the perceived homosexuality of the complainant, and was homophobic in its nature.”

Senior District Crown Prosecutor Emily Lloyd said: “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.

“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.”

Whitfield was also ordered to pay £300 in costs, £300 in compensation and a £154 victim surcharge.

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