A publisher and columnist headbutted and punched a man who accused his newspaper of producing “discriminatory” articles.
Liam Ellis began talking to The Press’ publisher Danny Lockwood in the Fox and Hounds pub in Hanging Heaton last April. Moments after Lockwood left, Mr Ellis went outside to apologise for the disagreement.
But Lockwood headbutted Mr Ellis and repeatedly hit his upper body, forcing him back into the lobby.
Mr Ellis needed five stitches under his left eye and his vision is still affected, Kirklees Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday.
Lockwood, who represented himself during the one-day trial, tried to claim his actions were in self-defence.
The 55-year-old, of Main Street, Elvington, York, said Mr Ellis had become loud and threatening during their conversation, branding him and The Press “racist”.
The court heard Lockwood had left one part of the pub to move into the taproom earlier in the evening because a man who had previously threatened to kill him was also there.
After speaking to Ellis in the taproom, Lockwood said he left the pub feeling “upset, shaken and shaking”. He said he acted in self-defence as he was “in fear of what [Ellis] was going to do next”.
But District Judge Baldwin rejected Lockwood’s account, saying she believed Mr Ellis was going outside to apologise.
The court heard Ellis, who worked at the pub in Bennett Lane, was drinking there as a customer when Lockwood came into the taproom on April 20 at around 10.15pm.
The pair struck up a conversation and Mr Ellis began talking about The Press.
He 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.”
Mr Ellis said Lockwood then tapped him on the shoulder and told him he was leaving.
“I thought to myself, whether or not I agree or disagree, perhaps the taproom on a Saturday night was not the best place to be talking about it,” he said.
Mr Ellis said he went to apologise to Lockwood, who was standing just outside.
“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 said.
“He came and headbutted me and I doubled over and he kept punching me in my face and arms.”
The blow forced Mr Ellis back into the lobby of the pub and onto the floor.
Kerry Oldroyd, a member of the bar staff, saw some of what was happening and jumped over the bar to help. She opened the lobby door, which put a barrier between the two men and stopped the attack.
The left side of Mr Ellis’s face was covered in blood and he could not see out of his left eye. He was taken by ambulance to Dewsbury and District Hospital where he received five stitches.
During cross-examination, Lockwood accused Mr Ellis of “picking a fight” and being intimidating during their conversation.
Lockwood said he tried to diffuse the situation, but that Mr Ellis swore at him when he said he was leaving.
“When I went outside, you followed me to finish me off,” he said.
Mr Ellis denied that he had sought a fight.
Lockwood put it to Mr Ellis that he had come outside pointing and swearing. He suggested the two clashed heads in a short “melee” before Lockwood was satisfied he was safe and walked off.
But prosecutor Ben Crosland said it was Lockwood who had lost his temper after having his evening cut short.
He added: “You lost your rag, didn’t you? You decided to teach this young whippersnapper a lesson because you were fed up.”
Judge Baldwin found Lockwood guilty of assault by beating, saying she was not satisfied that he was acting in self-defence or that the force used was proportionate.
The case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report.
Lockwood, a journalist for 36 years and a publisher for more than 20, will be sentenced on February 25 .
Judge Baldwin said that taking into account Lockwood’s previous good character, a community penalty was the most likely sentence.