Gay man ‘punched in the face’ at London Wetherspoon pub in suspected hate crime

Student Sam Duffy was allegedly assaulted at a pub in London more than a month ago.

His alleged attacker, a man in his mid-to-late 50s, has not been apprehended and, despite the pub claiming to have barred him from its premises, Duffy says he has spotted him at least twice more at the venue.

Duffy, a 21-year-old student at the University of Westminster, lives close by The Beaten Docket, a Wetherspoon pub in Cricklewood, North West London.

According to Duffy, he was having dinner at the pub on August 18 when he became aware that a group of people sitting near him were making negative remarks about ethnic minorities and LGBT+ people.

“The people next to me were making some homophobic, racist comments among themselves—transphobic as well. You name it, they were saying it. I tried to ignore it but it went on and on,” Duffy recalled in a conversation with PinkNews.

Duffy, who was wearing a rainbow flag wristband at the time, said he overheard the group talking specifically about him. He told PinkNews that a man in the group referred to him and his wristband and said: “He is one of them.”

Feeling increasingly uncomfortable, Duffy said he reported the conversation to a member of the pub staff, who then confronted the group.

A view of the pub on Cricklewood Broadway (PinkNews)

The man—whose identity isn’t known—is said to have reacted angrily and complained that it was a “free country,” and he could “say whatever he wanted.”

“Then the staff left me for a minute and the guy came and sat down at my table. He said: ‘Give me one reason why I shouldn’t punch you,’ and before I could respond, he punched me in the face,” Duffy said.

The student then decided to call the police but deemed his injury, a swollen eye, not serious enough to call an ambulance as he lived in close proximity to the pub.

By the time the police arrived, the man had left. The student posted an account of the assault on Facebook later that night as well as picture of the man who assaulted him that he managed to take at the venue.

Duffy claims the pub management initially discouraged him from calling the police. “It would damage their reputation,” he said he was told.

Wetherspoon’s response

Duffy formally complained about this behaviour in a message sent to Wetherspoon’s customer support centre earlier this month that PinkNews reviewed. He also suspects that the man was able to leave the pub before the police arrived because he is a regular customer.

A Wetherspoon customer support officer that dealt with Duffy’s complaint offered him a £20 gift card by way of apology. She did not directly address the claim that the pub management had discouraged Duffy from calling the police, but stated that all Wetherspoon employees undergo diversity training. She also assured him that the man had been barred from the pub premises.

Duffy took a picture of the group that was sitting next to him on the day of the assault (Courtesy of Sam Duffy)

Duffy says he had another encounter with the man, on September 3. He returned to the pub with his flatmate and her mother around 6.30pm. “He was in there, having a drink and being served by the same people who were there when I was assaulted,” he said.

The student says he was unsure what to do after spotting the man—he did not want to alert the pub staff again because he felt they failed to help the first time and feared they’d allow him to flee again. After discussing the situation, his flatmate’s mother suggested he call the police.

He dialled 101 from the front of the pub while pretending to have a cigarette but, by the time police arrived, the man had once again left.

Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon told PinkNews in a statement: “Firstly we would like to apologise to the customer for the distress caused by the incident. We have zero tolerance towards violent and homophobic behaviour in our pubs.

“The victim had approached the bar and reported that the party were airing homophobic opinions. The duty manager approached the group to investigate and at the stage the members of the group and the victim started shouting, so the duty manager asked them both to leave as they were being disruptive to other customers in the pub.

“At that stage the assault took place and the duty manager and her colleague intervened. One of the duty managers dealt with the aggressors and the other moved the victim away from the group, and asked how he was. She was aware that he appeared to have cut the inside of his lip, but appeared otherwise physically OK.

“The victim requested that the police were called, which the duty manager did. The duty manager also offered to call an ambulance but this was declined.”

Wetherspoon, however, disagrees with Duffy’s claims about the pub urging him not to call the police and the man’s return to the premises.

“We refute the statement that staff told the customer not to call the police. We also refute the statement that members of the group have been seen in the pub since the incident,” said a spokesperson for the pub group.

“The man and others in the group have been barred from the pub. If he comes into the pub he and others in the group will be asked to leave. That is the case with anyone barred in our pubs and likely in all pubs,” the statement provided to PinkNews read.

Record of the call to 101 Duffy made after spotting his alleged attacker in the pub again (Courtesy of Sam Duffy)

When pressed further about Duffy’s recollection of the exchange with the pub management on August 18 and of spotting the man on September 3, the Wetherspoon spokesperson clarified that the statements provided reflected the pub management’s version of the events.

A third sighting

Passing by the pub on September 26, Duffy said he once again spotted the man sitting inside, as he told PinkNews in a series of messages that evening. He said he again called the police, using the 999 emergency number this time, but officers did not arrive in time and the man had left the pub by the time they got there.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed they received a call from Duffy on September 26 in relation to “the sighting of an outstanding suspect in an alleged offence reported on 18 August.”

The police are treating the incident as a hate crime. The investigation continues.

“Detectives are treating the assault as a hate crime.The victim has alleged a homophobic remark was directed towards him. There have been no arrests and enquiries continue,” said a spokesperson for the Met Police.