Sectarian row fan taken off jet avoids a prison term
A man from Northern Ireland was spared jail yesterday for a sectarian outburst as he was escorted off a flight at a Scottish airport.
Terence Ward (27) was visiting to watch his beloved Celtic taking on Motherwell at Fir Park on Saturday, December 6 last year.
Celtic won the match 1-0 thanks to a sixth-minute goal from Republic of Ireland striker Anthony Stokes in a game that also saw 'Well defender Simon Ramsden sent off.
After the match Ward and his cousin made their way to Glasgow Airport to board a flight back to Belfast.
And Paisley Sheriff Court heard yesterday that, while having a few drinks in the departure lounge, Ward and his cousin traded insults with a couple of Rangers fans from Northern Ireland who were boarding the same flight.
The insults were said to have started off in a jokey manner but as the banter between the groups in the airport lounge continued it escalated and, once they were sitting on the plane, it became more heated.
Fiscal deputy Maureen McGovern, prosecuting, told the court that the Rangers fans summoned cabin crew and asked that either they, or Ward and his cousin, be moved.
Staff then took the decision to remove Ward and his cousin from the flight altogether, prompting Ward to become angry and start shouting and swearing.
The court heard he shouted "this is because we're Catholics".
He went on to brand the group with whom he and his cousin had been trading insults "Orange b*******".
Ward was arrested over his foul-mouthed rant and was held in police custody for two nights before appearing at Paisley Sheriff Court on Monday, December 8 last year.
During that court appearance he was charged with a breach of the peace and given a date for his trial.
When he returned to the court yesterday, Ward - of Eastern Crescent, Belfast - pleaded guilty to committing a breach of the peace at the airport by acting in a disorderly manner, shouting, swearing and repeatedly uttering sectarian remarks aggravated by religious prejudice.
Eamonn McGeehan, defending, said it had been an expensive lesson for the first-time offender, who is unemployed and on benefits of £75-per-week.
He said he had been unable to board the flight as he'd been arrested, and had to pay an extra £79 for a flight home.
And it cost him a further £120 for a return to Scotland to plead guilty to the charge yesterday.
The lawyer said Ward had been angry that he felt he and his cousin were being singled out despite being "just as bad" as the Rangers fans, but accepted he had responded inappropriately.
He added: "His mother is ashamed of his conduct, as is he, and asked me to convey to the court how ashamed she is."
After hearing how much it had cost Ward, who has no previous convictions, Sheriff Colin Pettigrew spared him jail.
As he fined Ward £300, reduced from £400 because he admitted his guilt, he said: "You were upset at being led off the plane and I can understand why you feel aggrieved.
"You attributed the situation to some form of religious prejudice, but immediately thereafter compounded it by making comments aggravated by religious prejudice on your part.
"The law in this country, by which I mean Scotland, prescribes that this sort of behaviour is not to be tolerated at all.
"This was an expensive outing - of your own making."