Hearts fan convicted of breach of the peace but not assault over Neil Lennon incident

Hearts fan John Wilson has been found guilty of breach of the peace for an incident during the Hearts vs. Celtic match at Hearts’ Tynecastle stadium on 11th May this year. The jury of seven women and eight men deleted the reference to making a sectarian remark from the charge relating to breach of the peace, and that the offence was aggravated by religious prejudice. They returned a not proven verdict for a second charge, which alleged Wilson assaulted Mr Lennon aggravated by religious prejudice.

The charges had stated that he had assaulted Mr Lennon and had caused breach of the peace by conducting himself in a disorderly manner, running onto the field during the match, running at the away team dug out, shouting, swearing, making a sectarian remark, all to the alarm and annoyance of others and causing further disturbance within the crowd.
Mr. Wilson had denied all the allegations against him. He us due to return to court to be sentenced for the breach of the peace conviction.

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  • Mac

    Just because someone assaults a high profile catholic in the middle of a much publicised sectarian hate campaign against said catholic, all on live TV in front of millions. Just because the Security Manager for the assaulter’s team swears under oath that the assaulter shouted the words “Lennon, you Fenian bastard” whilst assaulting the Catholic doesn’t mean it was an asault motivated by sectarianism.

    Perhaps he just doesn’t like gingas.

  • Chris Donnelly

    The deep seated nature of sectarian prejudice in Scottish society laid bare.

    Scotland’s Rodney King moment?

  • iluvni

    “Scotland’s Rodney King moment?”

    jesus wept

  • Mark

    Scotland’s O.J Simpson moment …

  • HeinzGuderian

    How many ‘Millions’ were watching Hearts v celtic,one wonders ?

    Anywhoo,it was stated on BBC NI News,that Wilson admitted assault. It was witnessed by a fair few at Tynecastle,and a few Thousand on Television.
    I find the verdict bizarre in the extreme !!

  • Turgon

    “Scotland’s Rodney King moment”

    MOPE of the week?

  • Mark McGregor

    More like Scotland’s Srebrenica.

    (Bloody hell Chris talk about overegging. It surely is an incident and judgement that deserves discussion but it’s an oaf assaulting a 2nd rate fruitball coach)

  • Sounds like the worst case of attempted suicide ever. 😉

  • HeinzGuderian

    weet

    I’m not sure OJ was acquitted in Scotland ??????

  • Mark

    Just making the comparison of obvious guilt in both cases .

  • Limerick

    Scotland’s Rodney King moment?

    LOL

  • Chris Donnelly

    Allegations of MOPE from Turgon are, indeed, worth savouring.

    The Rodney King case is a valid comparison in terms of the suspected prejudices of the jury ensuring that what appeared as an open and shut case did not end up so being.

  • Limerick

    Chris,

    Perhaps there should be a retrial.

    In a Diplock Court. 🙂

  • Turgon

    When in a hole Donnelly the usual advice is to stop digging. Then again it is amusing so please carry on.

  • andnowwhat

    Reminds me of how the nazis behaved.

    (not really. Just thought I’d go straight for Godwin’s first)

  • Chris Donnelly

    Turgon
    Perhaps you will enlighten us on your thoughts regarding this verdict?

  • Turgon

    Donnelly,
    Good: keep on digging.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I thought not, Turgon.

  • Turgon

    We are about to start on a new garage. I know it is the end of the summer and you are about to go back to school but seeing how good you are at digging holes here on slugger I wonder if you want to come round and dig the foundations. I won’t pay of course but you might enjoy it.

  • babyface finlayson

    Astonishing that he got off with breach of the peace. But “Scotland’s Rodney King moment” is a bit of a stretch.
    This idiot should be barred from all Hearts games for life. No wait, he should be forced to attend all Hearts games for life. A fitting punishment.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    When Turgon doesn’t like people he usually precedes their surname with a ‘Mr’ & drops the first name? Is the use of the surname only in this instance an uberdislike or could it be a blokish term of er, affection?

  • Turgon

    Tochais Síoraí…or Mr. Síoraí or Síoraí whichever,

    Probably the former

  • lamhdearg

    i have been given a yellow, today for a comment made on the 17th aug, maybe this chap has a sentance coming as yet. ps this is the comment “mark,
    is it ok to show pics of children breaking the law on here, but not in the irish news.” on thread drum and base. ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????. ..”and they wonder why there is a sectarian issue in Scotland????? It starts right where the power is, in the hierarchy!! ” the hierarchy where the jury?. “the Security Manager for the assaulter’s team swears under oath that the assaulter shouted the words “Lennon, you Fenian bastard”, the jury did not believe him. “prejudices of the jury” i feel someone may be about to blow that out of the water , all in all, max punisment for breach of the peace should follow.

  • Mark

    Most jurers had their minds made up before they reached the courtroom . I was going to say most jurers had their mind made up before they’d heard the evidence …..but unless they were kiving in a cave , they had to have seen the evid’tence in the aftermath of the incident . It was all over the media the following days .

    Maybe the fact that he only managed to grab Lennon’s forehead and the fact that both Lennon and Thompsom put the boot in when he was on the ground swayed some jurers .

    It shouldn’t have …… assault is assault is assault .

  • Spud

    I see that another northern Catholic is being made feel welcome in Glasgow. Aaron Mc Gregor is feeling the brunt of the sectarianism in Scotland for having dared to sign for Rangers FC. It is glaringly obvious that this sectarianism is all one sided against Irish Catholics.

  • Mark

    That would make sense Between the Bridges because I got a yellow this morning for a comment I made on monday night / tuesday morning ….yet a 5.00 pm this evening I got a yellow for a comment I hade made last week .

    I thought maybe Mick was going through my old comments to see if there were any more yellows he could give . But it seems he’s working backwards after his hols , well I hope that’s the case .

  • Mark

    Update – between the bridges should read Lamhdearg …

  • lamhdearg

    Mark. hello
    the attack (i dont say assault) is still on youtube, he runs towards neill and at the last second is knocked of balance by thompson, he can claim he did not assault, based on this, had thompson not stopped him i believe the jury would have found in favor of an assault charge.

  • lamhdearg

    “Update – between the bridges should read Lamhdearg”
    Freudian slip?.

  • Mark

    Hi Lamhdearg , so do you think attempted assault would have brough a guilty verdict ?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Lamh, was always told assult dosn’t necessarily require contact to be made, but it is a harder one to prove, I think it sounds like that was a tough decision for the jury with the “not proved” verdict.

    On the sectarian issue, it is great to see Scottish folk have more sense than their politicians, a sectarian insult does not tell you the motivation, just the lack of vocabulary of the person involved.

  • lamhdearg

    yes. but a look a the picture on bbc web news scotland, puts a little doubt in My mind that assault was a clear odjective of neils attacker, he is up close but looks not like someone about to hit.

  • DC

    Scottish justice is to be trusted after all it did let Al Megrahi go on compassionate grounds. Proved correct in its assessment.

    Aggressive fan attacks aggressive manager.

  • lamhdearg

    Don’t want to take this offline, Al Megrahi would have been dead long ago, if he had remained in scotland, in Libya he was getting cancer drugs, we not backed by a billionaire can only dream off.

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: The Rodney King case is a valid comparison in terms of the suspected prejudices of the jury ensuring that what appeared as an open and shut case did not end up so being.
    I see Limerick made the obvious response to your distrust of a jury that is statistically likely to have had the wrong demographics from your point of view.
    Does that also mean that Scotland can’t be trusted with independence until the demographics are sorted out?
    After all – Rodney King finally got some justice at Federal level.

  • Turgon

    andnowwhat,
    I do not mind your remarks nor do I regard them as serious man playing. However, just to clarify: I was mocking Chris Donnelly’s “Rodney King” comment: just as a number of others, not all of them unionists, have done.

  • andnowwhat

    Does this look like attempted assault

  • andnowwhat

    Turgon

    I took Chris’ King remarks as a joke

  • lamhdearg

    andnowwhat, watching it again i feel you are right, that man on the ground is kicked repeatedly.

  • Mark McGregor

    *Note to self* Case law shows attacking former OSC fruitball players in Scotland only counts as Breach of the Peace – fill yer boots!

  • Turgon

    andnowwhat,
    Maybe: I thought he was serious but maybe it was a joke. I am probably especially poorly placed to give Chris the benefit of the doubt. In his case I suspect I may be a bit old fashioned and superiority minded: on that one you are probably correct. Good night

  • lamhdearg

    “Two Rangers supporters have been jailed for two years each for attacking Celtic coach Neil Lennon hours after an Old Firm game” not allways.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Just when you thought the Whinge Fest Season was over…………………..

  • andnowwhat

    Lamhderg

    No he isn’t. O thought so too at first glance but looked again

    (BTW, how come Jedward comes up as the next option on Youtube?)

  • andnowwhat

    Heinz, no offence but this summer has been a “Whing Fest” of another shade this summer.

  • lamhdearg

    andnowwhat, so we agree, that some video pictures taken from a distance can be seen by two people in a different light. jedward are an assault on everything decent, only joking mrs jedward.

  • lamhdearg

    goodnight all.

  • andnowwhat

    Lamhderg

    Not really. I only had to watch the video twice to see the guy wasn’t stamped on.

    I’ve watched it quite a few times and it’s clear that Wilson tried to kick lennon.

  • Cynic2

    So predictable!

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Turgon

    Thanks for the laugh. You criticising anyone for MOPEry is hilarious. and really brightened up a dull day.

    If this had been an attack on the NI/Rangers/Linfield manager, your view (as we all know) would have been completely different.

    Keep up the good work.

  • babyface finlayson

    Certain assumptions seem to have been made here about the affiliations of the Jury. Does anyone know anything factual about the makeup of the Jury?
    Apart from the fact that they allowed in 3 too many.
    Rookie mistake!

  • Millbag

    Threatening or abusive language is also classed as assault, so it does beg the question: what exactly do you have to do to be convicted of assault in Scotland?

  • Mick Fealty

    It would help if people made some effort to try to understand the subtlies of Scottish law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_proven

  • Agree entirely, Neil Lennon’s abilities as a manager are not proven, and the jury is still out on Ally McCoist.

  • Millbag

    ‘Not enough evidence to convict’, apparently.

    The fact that the Hearts security man heard a sectarian remark, coupled with the whole incident being televised, was deemed ‘not enough evidence to convict’.

    How long till the next joker decides to run on the pitch and take a potshot at Lennon?

  • vanhelsing

    “In modern use, the not proven verdict is used when the jury does not believe the case has been proven against the defendant but is not sufficiently convinced of their innocence to bring in a not guilty verdict”

    Come on guys. Whine all you like about the verdict but the fact of the matter is [as Turgon pointed out in the thread] John Wilson was found guilty of only ‘breach of the peace’.

    So are you accusing the jury of being biased? If so state your reasons and back up with evidence. Otherwise…

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Unconfirmed reports that the two people charged with sending him a letter bomb have plea bargained that it was in fact a fireworks display to celebrate his tenure as Celtic manager.

  • between the bridges

    It’s a strange one! But he has been found guilty of something and awaits sentencing? I would guess the sentence will now reflect the interest the decision has invited…is there any truth in the rumor that when he heard the decision the defendant praised The Supreme Being and thanked the Worshipful master and the brethren of the jury for their unbiased decision and respectfully stood for the national anthem?

  • The charge was not assault – it was assault aggravated by reliigious prejudice. A sectarian motivation is difficult to prove, and the evidence used in this case was the allegation that the accused shouted “you Fenian bastard” at Lennon during the incident. Wilson denied this, saying he shouted “ya fucking wanker”.

    In fact, Wilson admitted the assault, but since he wasn’t charged with assault, he couldn’t be found guilty of it. The jury was only given the choice of giving a verdict on a charge of assault aggravated by religious prejudice. The jury asked the Crown to change the charge to assault alone, but the Crown refused – the jury clearly would have convicted in that case.

    The jury also asked the Crown to remove the element of sectarian motivation from the breach of the peace charge in order to convict. Again, the Crown refused – so the jury removed it themselves in order to secure the conviction.

    The whole thing seems to centre on the fact that the jury wasn’t convinced that Wilson used the word “Fenian”. While this would have been the most obvious demonstration of a sectarian motive, perhaps the Crown could have put forward other evidence.

    Wilson also said he had learning difficulties, and perhaps this also had some effect.

    There is a wider argument to be had here. Should the Crown have downgraded the charge to assault to get a conviction? Or should assault just be assault, and the motivation be disregarded? And should someone be punished because they hold abhorrent views?

  • Into the west
  • Skinner

    Thanks Gonzo – I was waiting for someone to give a bit of clarity to the general wooliness on this thread.

    The allegations that people are bandying around that the jury was biased are very defamatory. Unless you know the jurors concerned and sat through the trial you are not really in a place to comment.

  • Skinner

    Gonzo – was it open to the jury to delete the sectarian agrravation bit from the assault charge in the same way as they did for the breach of the peace charge? If it was open for them to do so, I cannot for the life of me see why did not. Quite clearly there was an assault.

  • Reader

    Belfast Gonzo: The charge was not assault – it was assault aggravated by reliigious prejudice.
    Thanks Gonzo. I suppose you realise that your addition of a few facts to the topic has made the original blog and the first page of 50 comments a complete waste of everyone’s time?
    Time to start over…

  • Lionel Hutz

    Gonzo has got it right. It’s the crown going for too much. The crown wanted a conviction for the aggravated assault and sometimes presenting a lesser charge to the jury can make them less likely to find on the more serious charge.

    In this case they probably would have been wise to offer both. My understanding of scots law is a bit lacking but my understanding was that “not proven” allowed the prosecution to come back with again with a straight assault charge. I could be wrong though.

  • Millbag

    No-one’s saying the jury was biased. But why was the assault charge tied to a sectarian motive one? Can’t they be done separately?

    Maybe the Crown went for ‘too much’ on account of there being fairly overwhelming evidence.

    Either way, someone has seriously cocked up here.

  • Neil

    In this case they probably would have been wise to offer both. My understanding of scots law is a bit lacking but my understanding was that “not proven” allowed the prosecution to come back with again with a straight assault charge. I could be wrong though.

    According to wiki, doiuble jeopardy rules do not apply and the prosecution is free to re-file. Though the news last night said that this (re-filing charges) was very very rare.

  • Skinner

    Millbag – “no-one’s saying the jury was biased”

    Yes they are. Chris Donnelly said:

    “suspected prejudices of the jury ensuring that what appeared as an open and shut case did not end up so being.”

    – and –

    “The deep seated nature of sectarian prejudice in Scottish society laid bare.”

    – and weetim67 said:

    ” This is the most disgusting decision of all time in the courts in Scotland. It has to be right up there with OJ Simpsons aquital. I wonder what would have happend had a Celtic fan attacked Walter Smith? Scotland is shameful and bigotted right through to the core.”

    I don’t think it’s fair to defame the jurors like this, particularly when there is obviously so much ignorance about how the trial proceeded. Besides anything else, the jurors could all have been Catholic Celtic supporters for all we know.

    Chris Donnelly and weetim67’s comments are indicative of those who start with the position that there must be a conspiracy against “their side” and then look for evidence. When they don’t find the evidence they just make it up by supposition.

  • As an Irish man I never understood the supposed affinity between the Irish and Scottish, the celtic cousins balderdash. I never bought the lovable ‘och aye’ Scotsman to your face while hiding his seething bigotry underneath his ‘skirt’. The scene in Braveheart where the Irish and Scottish shake hands on the battlefield was the most laughable piece of Hollywood crap to hit the screen in decades (and there have been many).

    I have no sympathy for Lennon. Only a naive fool would ply his trade in that cesspit of bigotry that is Glasgow. He should have got a job in the lower divisions of the English League. The standard of football is so much higher.

  • Nunoftheabove

    N. Exile

    So in other words it’s your view that the bother is Lennon’s own fault. Would’ve been a bit clearer – and honest – if you’d just said that.

  • Skinner

    I’m no expert, but the “breach of the peace” charge was said to be due to things like Wilson conducting himself in a disorderly manner, running on to the pitch, running at the away team dug out, shouting, swearing, and causing further disturbance to the crowd. Clearly any one of those could be disregarded and the remainder would still be enough to convict, which is what the jury did with the sectarian element. They do not seem to have had the option with the other all-inclusive charge, although the QC in the link below begs to differ. I suspect he is wrong, but would love to be corrected.

    To me, it looks like the Crown was determined to send out a signal by using the new ‘hate crime’ legislation, since this was such a high-profile case. They utterly failed, and this is a big embarrassment. It leaves the law looking very silly, which is a shame, as it was intended to do good.

    I think the QC (in the link below) is being misleading or is just a bit thick in his interview, but I have much sympathy for those who see the judgment as perverse. I suspect the jury was deeply divided, but at least it was a jury and not a judge alone.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-14748147

  • Skinner

    According to the daily record the accused’s family on his father’s side are Catholic and I’ve read in a forum that his own daughter is Catholic. If true, that may have been enough to put reasonable doubt on the charge that his attack was religiously aggravated.

    Whether it’s true or not I do have some theoretical difficulty with the notion that his crime is somehow worse because of the nature of its motivation. I get the impression that John Wilson is a bit of a nutter who got drunk and completely lost the head in the pack mentality that pervades football fans. I’m not sure what it adds to say he was driven to do what he did by religious hatred, rather than simply a mindless violent streak. He’s a nutter either way and should be locked up.

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2011/08/31/neil-lennon-assault-trial-hearts-fan-admits-attacking-celtic-boss-but-denies-fenian-sectarian-slur-86908-23385867/

  • Rory Carr

    Clearly the jury were not happy with the part of each charge that alleged that it was aggravated by religious prejudice and I have to say that in light of a defendant’s denial that such is the case and in absence of any compelling evidence in support it is difficult to know how any honest jury could convict beyond reasonable doubt.

    I really fear that the problem here lies with the Crown who rushed through this law in haste and in haste attempted to use this, not as a test case, but rather as a show case, and the jury were having none of it. And, Celtic supporter though I am and mindful as I am of Neil Lennon’s need for protection from sectarian thugs, I still cannot fault the jury, except…

    …the exception to finding fault with the jury lies in their solving their unease on the religious prejudice question by dropping that part of the charge from the allegation of breach of the peace. However on the charge of “assault aggravated by religious prejudice”, they found for ‘Not Proven!.

    “Fair enough,” you might think in the light of what I have just said above. It is difficult, near enough impossible to determine that the assault was aggravated by religious prejudice and the Crown cannot prove that it was and so the “Not Proven” verdict.

    But when we pause, we realise that there was nothing whatsoever stopping them from dropping the religious prejudice aggravation part from the assault charge (as they did with the “breach of the peace” charge), particularly in light of the defendant’s acceptance of his guilt on that matter, an admission backed up by witnesses close at hand and by video footage which had been viewed by almost all of Scotland we might think.

    There is this then from Skinner above:

    Millbag – “no-one’s saying the jury was biased”

    Yes they are. Chris Donnelly said…

    Well now he can add that ” Rory also said”. And he can also say that I am sorry to say it, but it is fair and their behaviour has earned then that condemnation. The alternative would be to accuse them of being stupid and I am not about to do that. I think that they have shown themselves to be rather intelligent in fact. It was in the selective application of that intelligence that they demonsrated their bias in favour of the defendant and against the victim.

    Which is a pity because I actually sympathise with them on the difficulties of finding guilt of religious prejudice but, damn me! the geezer did assault Lennon and the world and his wife were witness.

    My verdict then ?

    The Crown was stupid and the jury was smart enough to exploit that stupidity in line with their own prejudices..

  • Nunoftheabove,

    My point was if you choose to cross a pit filled with poisonous snakes, the chance of you being bit by one of the bastards is exceedingly high. I didn’t mean to blame Lennon, only to question his judgement. Fault lies with the Neanderthal who crawled out of his cave and tried to clock Lennon.

  • Nunoftheabove

    N. Exile

    You didn’t mean to but…you did anyway. What are you questioning his judgment on exactly please ?

    I’m confident that you’ll see the folly of your analogy in time, snakes not having any sort of choice over whether they’re poisonous or not as, I’m assuming, you’re very well aware.

  • BluesJazz

    The defendant has said he has ‘learning difficulties’. That would explain his belief in religion. But he hasn’t explained what theological differences, if any, he had with the victim.
    If the assault was aggravated by some theological dispute, as maintained by ‘The Crown’, why was the nature of this theological dispute not put forward in court?

  • Rory Carr

    Thank you, BluesJazz, for an uninspiring piece of smartarsery. It was just the job to inject a much needed shot of tedium into this discourse.

    Now don’t forget to say your prayers before beddy-byes..

  • BluesJazz

    Nope Mr Carr
    If the defendant had assaulted Mr Lennon for political beliefs, say the defendant was a Marxist, and considered the victim a Liberal. Would this be considered a ‘hate crime’?
    Presumably both parties in this case have a spiritual belief in a god, or gods. They dispute the nature of this being, or beings.
    Why should this be considered as an ‘aggravating’ factor? Rather than if one was a follower of Keynes or Friedman. At least the latter would have a rational thought process.

    That said, I will admit to throwing a drink over a Lib Dem councillor in Sheffield for simply being a Lib Dem.

  • Rory Carr

    I can understand you throwing the drink at the LibDem councillor, I believe it is why God put them upon this earth. However, as such, it should be considered, not an “aggravating” but an ameliorating factor in any charge you may face.

    Anyway no reasonable jury would convict.

  • Rory

    Agree with your thinking, but you said there was “nothing whatsoever stopping them” reducing the controversial charge to “ordinary” assault.

    I’m sure I read that the jury were not allowed by the Crown to do so, as I intimated above.

    The “breach of the peace” charge seems to have stood up, because the removal of religious prejudice from the circumstances behind the charge did not change the actual charge, and the other evidence was enough to convict.

    In other words, the jury did not seem to have the power to change the charges, but could omit unconvincing evidence in their consideration.

    I should point out that this is all based on reading media reports (some of which declined to explain any of this) and logic, rather than a detailed understanding of the vaguaries of Scottish law.

    Nor do I think I’m contradicting your conclusions – the Crown could have acted smarter if it hadn’t been so determined to make this a show trial. And none of the above rules out the possibility that the jury could’ve been a bunch of bigots. Even the force of argument by one or two behind closed doors could have been enough to shift opinion.

  • DC

    But he hasn’t explained what theological differences, if any, he had with the victim.

    I reckon it could be papal infallibility.

  • Rory Carr

    Gonzo,

    If your interpretation of the leeway available to the jury on the assault charge is correct then my argument becomes seriously undermined because I have already conceded that the jury would have every reason to be failed to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the assault was solely aggravated by religious prejudice.

    It would have been relatively easy for one jury member to argue that the guy was just drunk, “just a bapheid”, and for the jury, applying their own experience of Scottish life, to accept that.

    What the Crown may need to do is to split the charge in future – one charge of common assault and one of assault aggravated by etc.

    I think that the real problem lies in the likliehood that juries will have to be convinced that a crime was motivated by religious hatred before they will convict on a charge of it being aggravated by religious prejudice.

    And that leaves out any religious prejudice on the part of the jury themselves for which there is no accounting.

  • Exactly. Proving a sectarian motivation is very difficult. It seems likely that the only way it could have been proved to this particular jury would have been if some microphone had picked it up and the statement was clearly recorded. Mere witnesses weren’t good enough, perhaps because the jury believed they were biased, unconvincing or had a vested interest, or perhaps because some jury members were biased. Who knows. But Scotland’s hate crime laws suddenly look like they were built on very sandy foundations. And that is a pity.