An independent publisher has been found guilty of assault after headbutting and punching a man he claimed branded his newspaper “racist.”
Danny Lockwood, founder and publisher of The Press in Dewsbury, attacked Liam Ellis outside a pub last April after a discussion about the paper, leaving him needing five stitches under his left eye and with his vision still affected.
He was found guilty of assault by beating at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court by District Judge Baldwin on Friday after a one-day trial and will be sentenced later this month, rival title the Dewsbury Reporter reported.
Lockwood, 55, of Main Street, Elvington, York, is also a columnist for The Press and is publisher of Yorkshire Golfer Magazine and rugby title League Weekly.
The court was told on Friday that Mr Ellis began talking to Lockwood at the Fox and Hounds pub in Hanging Heaton on 20 April last year.
Mr Ellis worked at the pub but was drinking there as a customer when Lockwood came into the taproom at around 10.15pm and the pair struck up a conversation.
Lockwood, who represented himself during the trial, said that Mr Ellis had become loud and threatening during their conversation, branding him and The Press “racist”.
The publisher said he left the pub feeling “upset and shaken” and claimed the assault was in self-defence but Judge Baldwin rejected this account, saying she believed Mr Ellis was going outside to apologise.
Mr Ellis told the court: “I thought the way that things were written could be seen as discriminatory. We discussed [it] for 10 or 15 minutes but it never became overheated or threatening.”
He said Lockwood had then left the pub and he had decided to go and apologise to him, after deciding the pub was not the best place to discuss his views on the newspaper.
Said Mr Ellis: “I offered my hand and I said ‘I’ve come to apologise’. He was stood perhaps five yards away and he came running at me and he hit me.
“He came and headbutted me and I doubled over and he kept punching me in my face and arms.”
The court was told the blow forced Mr Ellis back into the lobby of the pub on the floor and a member of bar staff had stopped the attack by opening the lobby door, so putting a barrier between the two men.
Mr Ellis was taken to Dewsbury and District Hospital with the left side of his face covered in blood and he received five stitches.
Lockwood accused Mr Ellis of “picking a fight” with him but prosecutor Ben Crosland said it was Lockwood who had lost his temper after having his evening cut short.
Judge Baldwin said he was not satisfied that Lockwood was acting in in self-defence or that the force used was proportionate.
The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report and Lockwood will be sentenced on 25 February, with Judge Baldwin saying that a community penalty was the most likely sentence because of his previous good character.
After the trial, Lockwood told HTFP: “There were a number of aspects of the case that I was very disappointed with, not least the outcome.
“I was surprised that the judge seemed ambivalent to contradictions in the witness statements, and discounted police photographs which supported my account that Mr Ellis’s injury was caused not by a head butt, but an accidental clash of heads when he pursued me outside the pub, and which also left me with a deep cut on the crown of my head.
“It feels like it’s open season on journalists, inside and outside court.”
He added he was considering appealing against the verdict.