Two men spared jail after homophobic attack on man in gay nightclub


Two men who beat up a club-goer in the toilets of a gay nightclub before following him on to the street and attacking him again, have been spared jail. 

Joshua Downs, 20, of Langford Road, Bucknall, and Shaun Williams, 18, of Baker Crescent, Baddeley, targeted the victim at Gossip! nightclub, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, in July 2023.

Together they used homophobic language and attacked the victim in the club’s toilets before following him as he left the club and walked to his hotel. 

Once on the street, they continued to assault him by punching him in the head and face. The court heard that the victim was left with a bruised and swollen jaw and long-lasting tinnitus, while his ability to cope with stress and anxiety has also been affected. 

A male Metropolitan Police officer wears yellow reflective gear as he crosses his arms.
Two men have been spared jail after beating a man and subjecting him to homophobic abuse in gay nightclub bathroom. (Getty)

The pair were sentenced to 14 months in jail, suspended for 18 months. Both pleaded guilty to battery and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. 

According to Stoke-on-Trent Live, prosecutor David Bennett said: “Both defendants were in a cubicle together. They began causing damage to the toilet roll holder. The complainant left his cubicle to reason with them and he asked if everything was OK. He was met with a barrage of homophobic abuse.

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“Both attacked him, punching him several times to the face, three or four times each.”

Later, the defendants attacked the victim after he left the club, again by punching him in the head and face before he “went to the ground” where the “attack continued”, Bennett told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

Defendants were ‘shocked’ by drug-induced their behaviour

Steve Hennessy, mitigating for Williams, said his client is a “shocked by his behaviour” and “terrible” about what happened. 

“He feels deep shame and remorse. It has caused him to be a hermit,” Hennessy added.

For Downs, Catherine O’Reilly, said her client had abused alcohol and cocaine meaning “he behaved completely out of character. It has frightened him”. 

He has not taken cocaine or offended since, she added.

Judge Graeme Smith said: “You do not fit the profile of offenders we usually see committing these sorts of offences [but] this is a serious offence. It was entirely unprovoked. It was aggravated by homophobic abuse and it continued on a second occasion.”

Both men were ordered to complete a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days. Williams must carry out 150 hours unpaid work and Downs must complete a four-month electronically monitored curfew from 8pm to 7am, Stoke-on-Trent Live reported.

Gossip! assures it will continue to act fast against discrimination

Carl Gratty, managing director of Gossip! and chair person of Stoke-on-Trent Pride, told PinkNews the nightclub uses “enhanced security measures” including CCTV and an identification scanner upon entry to mitigate such incidents. 

Gratty added that the club’s measure enabled the venue to assist the police in bringing the defendants to court. 

He added: “Gossip! provides a safe space and our security teams will always take appropriate action against any person(s) showing aggression or any type of discrimination”.

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