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Eddie Izzard pleads for LGBT tolerance after man convicted of homophobic abuse

Published 25/11/2016

Eddie Izzard arrives at court
Eddie Izzard arrives at court

Comedian Eddie Izzard made an impassioned plea for tolerance for LGBT people after a man was convicted of shouting homophobic abuse at him.

The 54-year-old told a court he was taking a stand against "thousands of years of transgender people being aggressively attacked" when he defended himself near his home in central London.

Jamie Penny threatened to "do" the 54-year-old's house after an altercation in Pimlico, before a month later shouting to Mr Izzard that he was a "f***ing poofter" after seeing him for a second time in a nearby street.

The 24-year-old, who is also from Pimlico, was found guilty on Friday of two counts of using threatening and abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

Penny, who is autistic and has ADHD, also admitted damaging a police cell with his trouser zip after he was arrested.

Speaking outside Hammersmith Magistrates' Court in west London, Mr Izzard - who for years has been a transvestite - said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people should not have to face insults because of their sexual orientation.

He said: "I do look a little bit different but hopefully in this century people are relaxing about it. Hopefully we've got to 'boring'. When LGBT hits boring, then we've made it."

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.

One suddenly leaned close to his face and told him: "You should give me a ride in you car."

When Mr Izzard said that would never happen, Penny said: "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."

The incident made him feel "very edgy" and he shouted back at him, telling him he was a "f***ing idiot" and to "f*** off".

Mr Izzard said: "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."

A month later, on May 4, the court heard Penny shouted "you're a f***ing poofter" at Mr Izzard across a road near Victoria station.

The comedian said he was "100% sure" it was the same man, and that he again hurled abuse back, saying: "I don't run and hide, I stand my ground."

Mr Izzard 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".

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

He said was given Penny's name by people at the pub near where he was abused but only decided to tell police after the second incident.

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

On the second occasion he claimed Mr Izzard harassed a black man driving a Bentley and that the comedian looked intoxicated.

He said he told him to leave the man alone before telling him to "go to hell", denying he called him a "poofter".

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.

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