Three Celtic fans who were taken to court for allegedly wearing pro-Republican t-shirts at a match against Linfield have had their convictions overturned.
The trio, who we will not name publicly, were said to have worn shirts showing a figure wearing a black beret, sunglasses and a camouflage scarf covering the mouth. The Irish tri-colour was also said to be in the background.
Police officers at the Champions League qualifier believed the t-shirt depicted a member of the Provisional IRA and arrested the individuals.
The three men went on trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court in February and denied committing a breach of the peace at the game.
Prosecutors claimed that the accused conducted themselves in a disorderly manner by attending the match, against a club with known Loyalist supporters, wearing a shirt which displayed an image of a figure related to a “prescribed terrorist organisation – The Irish Republican Army.”
Police officers from Scotland and the North of Ireland explained that the image was clearly linked to the Republican paramilitary. However, the defence successfully argued that prosecutors needed to prove that the image on the T-shirts supported the IRA..
The sheriffs ruled that prosecutors had not established the men wore the T-shirts in support of the IRA and had not committed a breach of the peace.
Quashing the men’s convictions, Sheriff Turnbull said: “In the present case, there was corroborated evidence before the sheriff to the effect that each appellant was wearing a T-shirt which bore the image that is in issue. However, only the evidence of one Constable was capable of establishing that the T-shirts displayed an image of a figure related to and in support of the IRA. The evidence of two other Constables did not.
“Taken at its highest, the evidence was capable only of establishing that the T-shirts worn by the appellants each displayed an image of a paramilitary figure. The Crown did not seek to argue in this case that that was sufficient to support a conviction for breach of the peace.
“In the present case, proof of the charge turns upon what the image depicts. The Crown selected the wording of the charge, and accordingly required to prove that the image was of a figure related to and in support of a proscribed terrorist organisation, namely, the IRA.”
Sheriff Turnbull did however conclude “The wearing of such T-shirts in near proximity to the opposing supporters within or around a football stadium is conduct which, if proved, would in our view present as genuinely alarming and disturbing, in context, to any reasonable person.”
The match against Linfield, when the t-shirt arrests took place, was the scene of the Rodgers At Work banner. After the game, the Celtic boss threatened to walk if such banners were repeated.