Bizarre verdict in Neil Lennon Assault case

3 09 2011

A Hearts fan who attacked the Celtic  manager, Neil Lennon,  has escaped conviction for a “sectarian” attack but has been found guilty of breach of the peace.

John Wilson, 26, was prosecuted for assault aggravated by religious prejudice at Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh last May, days after it emerged Lennon had been targeted by potentially lethal parcel bombs.

Edinburgh sheriff’s court heard evidence from Peter Croy, the Hearts’ head of security, that Wilson shouted “Lennon, you Fenian bastard” as he was being restrained on the touchline, moments after striking Lennon on the head.

However, Wilson, denied this and said he called him a “f****** w*****”.

Lennon was not able to say what had been said and no-one else in the crowd could corroborate sectarian language being used

The jury returned a “not proven” verdict, a decision in the Scottish system which stops short of declaring a defendant innocent of the offence.

Wilson admitted attacking Lennon and said it was “a moment of madness” brought on by his frustration at another Celtic goal in the game and refereeing decisions. He insisted members of his family were Catholic.

Ballycastle SDLP Councillor Donal Cunningham commented “Legislation is needed both here and in Scotland which sends out a clear message through tough new laws that there is no place for bigotry in sports grounds or society in general. I welcome the initiative and efforts of many clubs and others in tackling sectarianism in sport”

Community leaders have their part to play.

 

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