Eddie Izzard defended himself 'as stand against attacks on transgender people'

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Comedian Eddie Izzard defended himself against a man who shouted homophobic abuse at him as a stand against "thousands of years of transgender people being aggressively attacked", a court heard.

Jamie Penny threatened to "do" the 54-year-old's house after an altercation in Pimlico, central London.

A month later Penny, 24, shouted to Mr Izzard that he was a "f****** poofter" after seeing him in a street nearby.

Penny, who is autistic, was found guilty of two counts of using threatening and abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress. He also admitted damaging a police cell after he was arrested.

Giving evidence at his trial, Mr Izzard said he had stood up to him and swore back because he had faced years of abuse for being a transgender man.

He told Hammersmith Magistrates Court: "It is something I do as a transgender man. Over years people have said very nasty things to me.

"I prefer to stand my ground. I do stand up for my rights and other people's rights."

The court heard that on April 3 Mr Izzard had been moving bags by his car, a 1958 Volkswagen Beetle, outside his Pimlico home when he heard an altercation at a nearby pub, before two men approached him.

Mr Izzard told the court one suddenly leaned close to his face and told him: "You should give me a ride in your car."

The man was aggressive so Mr Izzard said he told him he would "never have a ride in my car", before a second man, Penny, told him: "Izzard, we are going to do your house when you are away."

The comedian told the court: "It was totally aggressive. It had gone up into a verbal attack. He was walking away but shouting aggressively at me."

He told the court the incident had made him feel "very edgy", and that he shouted back at him, telling him he was a "f****** idiot" and to "f*** off".

Mr Izzard said: "I just thought this guy was threatening to steal stuff or break into my house and steal the contents.

"It was belligerently shouting, in an aggressive shout, across the street.

"I was thrown because it had escalated. For hundreds of thousands of years transgender people have been aggressively attacked.

"I just thought, it is not going to happen - I am going to attack back with words."

 

Mr Izzard added: "Anything aggressive will make anyone feel put-upon, threatened - all those kind of words. I have experienced enough of this in my life - it is a horrible thing."

A month later, on May 4, the court heard Mr Izzard was walking along Gillingham Street near Victoria station - back towards his house when he heard someone shout, "you're a f****** poofter" from the other side of the road.

Asked if he recognised the man as Penny, Mr Izzard said: "I knew it was the same guy who had shouted abuse at me in Hugh Street, I am 100% sure."

Mr Izzard told the court he hurled abuse back at him, saying: "I don't run and hide, I stand my ground."

The comedian said he had suffered years of abuse, including a time when he was supporting Crystal Palace in the FA Cup Final and was told by someone that he was "a disgrace".

Mr Izzard, who was wearing high-heeled boots, pink fingernails and a green scarf, told magistrates: "I am tough, I have run marathons, I wanted to stand up for myself otherwise you become a victim."

He also told the court that he had been given Penny's name by people at the pub near where he had first been abused, but had only decided to tell police after the second incident.

Under questioning, Penny said it was his friend who had threatened to "do" over Mr Izzard's house - and that the comedian had sneered at the pair, "talking to us like we are nothing".

He said he did not even know Mr Izzard at first, only looking him up online later after his friend told him he was a celebrity.

On the second occasion, he said he had seen Mr Izzard harassing a black man driving a Bentley, claiming the comedian had looked intoxicated, and had told him to leave the man alone before telling him to "go to hell", denying he had called him a "poofter".

And when Mr Izzard told the court about the homophobic abuse, Penny said, "you're not gay, why would I shout homophobic abuse at you if you're not gay?", before blowing him a kiss from the dock.

Magistrates said Penny, who the court heard has previous convictions for assault and possession of cannabis, would be given a restraining order and have to pay costs and compensation.

He was also ordered not to contact Mr Izzard.

He was bailed until November 30 when he will be sentenced at Westminster Magistrates' Court.