A gay man who was left scarred for life after a brutal homophobic hate crime has called for “tougher penalties” for attackers.
Aspiring drag artist Ryan Turner, 24, was knocked unconscious by Brandon Forrester, 19, during the brutal assault on 13 July, 2019, in Preston, Lancashire.
Before the attack, Forrester and others in the group told Turner that “gay is wrong” and that he and his friends should “die”.
Forrester was sentenced to nine months in a youth detention centre by judge David Potter over the attack, however, the sentence was suspended for 18 months as the judge agreed that the crime was considered out of character.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain on Friday (19 February), Turner said: “I still have my nights and my days, but from when it first happened to now, I feel so much better, a lot more myself.
“I have still got a lot of building to do for myself, I need to get back into my modelling and my drag, but compared to what I was 18 months ago, I feel a lot better and brighter.”
When asked how he felt about his attacker avoiding jail time, Turner said: “There definitely should be tougher penalties, it might have not gone right for myself and I might not have got the decision that I wanted, but I just want people to know there are options and support out there for anyone going through a similar situation, we will get help for it.
“And just be yourself, because there is nothing wrong with it.”
He added: “I have never had any issues with my sexuality, I have a great friendship group and my family are so supportive, so I had never encountered anything like this.”
Hate crime attacker claimed he did not target gay man because of his sexuality.
Forrester was handed a suspended sentence earlier this month. He had previously delayed the case from going to court by claiming that he did not target Turner because of his sexual orientation, which led to a trial of issue before the magistrates.
However, the magistrates ruled that the attack was in fact a homophobic hate crime.
Speaking to the Chorley Guardian about the impact of the attack, Turner said: “Usually I would shrug things off. But the year this happened was the second time I had been physically attacked.”
He added: “I still don’t know how to feel, I really thought he wouldn’t have walked free from court.
“Part of me feels like everything I have been through for the last 18 months is for nothing, but then if my story helps someone else then it was worth it.”
Turner also said he lost his confidence after the attack, in part due to the extent of his injuries, and he gave up modelling and his drag work until late last year.
“He made me question myself a lot. I put have spent two months driving every night, not sleeping, questioning if I wanted to be here and if I wanted to go down the path of being gay.”