Gay man ‘thought he would bleed to death’ after homophobic bouncer beat him during Pride

James Withers, a white man with a beard

A bar bouncer smashed a glass over a gay man’s head in a homophobic attack that took place during Leads Pride.

At the Slug and Lettuce in Boar Lane on 4 August, the victim ate with friends when a bouncer cornered him in the bathroom.

What was meant to be a night of celebration ended with the man bloodied and hospitalised when the bouncer struck him with a glass. The victim thought he was going to bleed to death on the bar floor.

It was an attack that still haunts the victim, Leeds Crown Court heard on Monday (22 November), who said he prefers now to live in the shadows than openly be who he is, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Beaten gay man: ‘The world is not a safe place’

The bouncer, 28-year-old James Withers of Wayland Approach, Adel, told the victim he needed to leave while calling him a homophobic slur in the restroom. He then escorted him back to his table as the victim still had to pay his bill.

As the victim made a sarcastic comment to Withers, he responded by grabbing a wine glass and smashing it over the victim’s head. There was “blood everywhere”, witnesses told police, prosecutors said.

Withers left the Slug and Lettuce as paramedics arrived to take the victim to the hospital. The victim suffered a five-centimetre laceration to his face and two smaller cuts.

He required surgery and 22 stitches, prosecutor Lucy Brown told the court.

“The scar is still with me as a constant reminder that the world is not a safe place,” the victim said in an impact statement read to the court. “Some people will hurt you because of who you are.”

Withers pleaded guilty to unlawful wounding and accepted the attack was fuelled by homophobia. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

“The defendant can make no excuses for what he did because it was abhorrent and wrong,” Jeremy Barton, mitigating, said.

“There is no suggestion that this defendant has ever engaged in any prejudiced activity with anyone previously.

“The defendant is genuine and this was an out of character act.”

“[The victim] thought he was going to bleed to death,” recorder Jeremy Hill-Baker said. “He is frightened to go out, is on edge and is worried about being able to express his sexuality openly – something he should be able to do without fear.

“In his own words, it feels [Withers’] actions have forced him back to the closet.”

Across the last decade, in a seemingly unrelenting series of attacks, LGBT+ people in the UK have been punched, pushedkicked, knocked unconscious, sliced with knives, spat on and called slurs. Queer businesses and public artworks have been vandalised.

Some have bravely stood up to their own or others’ attackers, only to be left bloodied and beaten. Others have been killed.

The rising tide of violence has seized the UK, with anti-LGBT+ hate crimes rising year on year, raising alarm and enraging activists.

In the last six years, anti-gay hate crimes have tripled and transphobic attacks have quadrupled. Between 2014 and 2021, LGBT+ hate crime and harassment rocketed by 210 per cent.

Just 10 of the UK’s 45 territorial law enforcement agencies recorded a decrease in hate crime.

Activists, however, warn that many victims do not report incidents to the police, meaning that the swollen figures are in fact just a sliver of the violence and harassment LGBT+ people have faced.

According to government figures, nine in 10 LGBT+ hate crimes go unreported.