Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Prison for Hearts fan over Neil Lennon abuse

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Media captionCeltic manager Neil Lennon being approached by John Wilson at Tynecastle

A football fan cleared of assaulting Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been jailed for eight months for a breach of the peace.

John Wilson, 26, was accused of a sectarian attack on the football boss as his side played Hearts at Tynecastle stadium in Edinburgh on 11 May.

A jury at Edinburgh Sheriff Court found the charge against Wilson not proven.

The decision came despite Wilson telling the court he had lunged at Lennon and struck him on the head.

However, Wilson, 26, a Hearts fan, was convicted of carrying out a breach of the peace at the side of the pitch during the game.

The court previously heard claims, denied by Wilson, that he had called Mr Lennon a "Fenian bastard" at the Scottish Premier League game.

He was cleared of making the sectarian remark during the incident after jurors deleted the allegation from the breach of the peace charge.

Wilson was also given a five-year football banning order at court.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Fiona Reith said: "The crime of which you have been convicted by the jury was a serious one.

"A breach of the peace can sometimes be a quite minor crime but sometimes it is not.

Image caption John Wilson has three previous convictions for breach of the peace

"In this case it was not minor at all, it was serious, and with serious potential consequences in the context of what was already a highly volatile atmosphere in the crowd of over 16,000 football supporters."

He was released later because he had been in jail since 12 May and had already completed more than half of his sentence.

Television viewers looked on as Wilson invaded the pitch and charged towards Lennon during the match earlier this year.

The incident unfolded after Celtic went two goals up.

Wilson, who has three previous convictions for breach of the peace, told the court the incident must have been "awful" for Lennon and said he had written a letter of apology to him.

At the trial the jury of eight men and seven women took two and a half hours to find Wilson guilty of conducting himself in a disorderly manner, running on to the pitch, running at the away team dugout, shouting, swearing, causing disturbance to the crowd and breaching the peace.

Earlier Lennon said Hearts versus Celtic games were "more raucous than usual" but this particular game in May "had a bit more of an edge to it" with a lot of abuse coming from the stands.

During his evidence, the court heard that the atmosphere in the ground after the match was "very tense" and "quite intimidating".

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: "The Crown takes all forms of hate crime very seriously. Bigotry and hate have no place in a modern Scotland.

"While we note the decision of the jury in this case, we will continue to prosecute as a hate crime any offence where there is a sufficient, credible and reliable evidence to do so."

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