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Celtic fans fail in legal challenge over Roll of Honour song fine

William Donnelly and Martin Walsh launched the appeal after being prosecuted over the song.

One in and one out at Easter Road
©SNS Group

Two Celtic supporters fined after singing a song commemorating Republican hunger strikers at an away match have lost a human rights challenge following their convictions.

William Donnelly, 30, and Martin Walsh, 22, were also given six-month football banning orders following the incident at Hibs' Easter Road ground on October 19, 2013.

The pair, both from Dumbarton, were prosecuted under controversial offensive behaviour at football legislation for singing the Roll of Honour song.

They were charged with engaging in behaviour which was likely or would be likely to incite public disorder by singing a song in support of a proscribed terrorist organisation.

The song commemorates Irish Republican hunger strikers from the Provisional IRA and INLA.

The legal challenge questioned whether in the circumstances of the case the pair's rights under Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights was breached over their right to know, with sufficient clarity, of the nature of the crime.

But the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway, sitting with Lord Bracadale and Lord Boyd of Duncansby, refused the appeal.

The senior judge said they will give full reasons later but added that they considered a previous case from 2013 had already determined the issue.

Defence counsel Claire Mitchell told the Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh that people were still being acquitted in similar prosecutions and there was "genuine disquiet" raised over such cases.

She said that if someone was singing the song they would have to know it is considered to be offensive or threatening and likely to incite public disorder before it could be criminal.

"In relation to acquittals there is dubiety about whether or not singing this song is a criminal offence," she said.

But advocate depute Richard Goddard said that there was previous authority from the appeal court that singing the particular song in the context of a football match provided a case to answer before the courts.

He said: "The words of the song cannot be viewed in a vacuum. You have to look at the context in which this song was sung."

Mr Goddard said it was against a background of a football match, with a large crowd and "the obvious potential for disorder"

"The subject matter of the song is clear. It is one that seeks to support, and perhaps glorify, members of what are two proscribed terrorist organisations," he said.

The prosecutor said it was sung in the context of a game where people of all ages, religions and backgrounds had gathered to watch a sporting event, a football match.

Mr Goddard said: "It is self evident that what they were doing would be a breach of this particular piece of legislation."

"The singing of the song did indeed provoke an adverse reaction from the opposition supporters. That is something that would have been clear to both appellants," he said.

The sheriff who heard the case, Michael O'Grady QC, said the evidence was that they were two young men from the West of Scotland who attended a football match supporting Celtic Football Club and who knew by heart the words of a song in support of ten Irish hunger strikers.

The sheriff said the suggestion that it would come as a surprise to them that such behaviour would be caught by the section of the legislation was "frankly preposterous".

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