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Reverse decision Celtic fans have convictions quashed for allegedly wearing pro-IRA t-shirts

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Celtic Park

Celtic Park

Celtic Park

THREE Celtic fans found guilty of a breach of the peace for wearing t-shirts alleged to be pro-IRA at a Champions League clash with northern rivals Linfield have had their convictions overturned.  

Michael MacAulay, Daniel Ward and Ryan Walker were arrested by police inside Celtic Park over their t-shirt which cops believed were tributes to IRA gunmen.

According to police, the shirts contained a printed image of a man wearing a black beret, sunglasses and a camouflage scarf covering the mouth.

One of the Scottish officers who gave evidence, said that a tri-colour flag was also featured in the background.

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Celtic Park

Celtic Park

Celtic Park

Police officers at the Celtic versus Linfield Champions League qualifier feared that these images could spark trouble believing that the image may have had paramilitary links to the IRA and arrested the men.

They were convicted by the Glasgow Sheriff Court in February despite denying that they committing a breach of the peace at the game in July 2017.

Prosecutors claimed they conducted themselves in a disorderly manner by attending the match wearing a shirt which displayed an image of a figure related to and in support of a 'prescribed terrorist organisation namely The Irish Republican Army'.

The trio took their case to the Sheriff Appeal Court where it was been overturned earlier this week.

During the hearing one Scottish officer, Constable Stirling, described the image as depicting a paramilitary figure wearing a black beret and sunglasses with a camouflage scarf covering the mouth.

The other, Constable Taylor, echoed this description but also mentioned the tri-colour flag of the Republic of Ireland being in the background of the image.

An Irish member of the police, Constable Nixon, said that the black beret was of the same style and colour as those worn by members of the IRA, and that the image was clearly meant to depict an IRA soldier.

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He also said he had regularly seen people dressed like that in the streets of Northern Ireland, at parades, and at the funerals of IRA members.

But the Sheriff’s officer ruled 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 Principal 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 Constable Nixon 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 Constables Stirling and Taylor did not.

“The only evidence supporting the connection with the IRA was given by Constable Nixon.

“The Crown did not lead evidence to corroborate that point.”

For these reasons, the appeals were allowed, and the convictions quashed.

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