Belfast Telegraph

Carrick Chelsea fan denies racism and blames Parisian for train row

By Kate Ferguson

A Chelsea fan and human rights activist from Northern Ireland has admitted pushing a black man off a Paris Metro train - and blamed the Parisian for "shouting" and starting the altercation.

Former policeman Richard Barklie (50) shoved the man twice amid chants of "John Terry is a racist and that's the way we like it, ooh ooh ooh".

But he insisted he had no "racist motive" and that Souleymane Sylla was the only one "using aggression".

Barklie, from Carrickfergus in Co Antrim, served as an officer with the RUC and is a director with the World Human Rights Forum.

He is among four Chelsea fans appearing at court fighting attempts to issue them with football banning orders which could bar them from matches for 10 years.

Trouble flared as Chelsea fans were on their way to see the London club play against Paris St Germain on February 17.

Barklie told Stratford Magistrates Court the train was "packed" and he only pushed Mr Sylla off because there was no room.

He said: "Mr Sylla, and it's my view, was the only one using aggression.

"From what I've seen and what I've viewed he was aggressively forcing himself into a space where there was none."

Talking through video footage played in court which shows him force Mr Sylla off the train, he said he put his hands up to protect himself.

He said: "I think he had tried to get on first and then he tried to get on again, but by that stage he was shouting.

"It's not clear here but I've seen other footage and it's more clear he was shouting and there was spray coming from his mouth.

"I did push him, I put my hands up to stop him getting into the space where I was standing. From my perception there were others behind me trying to get towards Mr Sylla and I felt myself getting pushed forward by the momentum."

Asked by his defence barrister Nick Scott if "there was any issue in relation to the colour of his skin", Barklie said: "None whatsoever."

He added: "I think he was remonstrating that there was room in the carriage. But it was packed and there was no room for him."

Barklie said he feared there could be "repercussions" if the Parisian managed to get on board the carriage because of the large number of Chelsea fans aboard.

Under cross-examination, Mr Clemens accused Barklie of joining in the "oooh, oooh, oooh" chorus of the racist chant.

The lawyer said video footage played in court showed him moving his lips.

He said: "I'm going to suggest we can see you joining in. You were singing the 'oooh, oooh, oooh', weren't you?"

Barklie replied: "Absolutely not."Asked if he was "shocked" when the racist chants became louder after Mr Sylla was pushed off, Barklie said no, adding: "It didn't shock me, I didn't say it was all right. I don't condone any racist singing."

Barklie said the Paris incident has "had a profound effect on my life". In his closing submission, Mr Clemens said he was shocked that Barklie had such little recollection of who sang the race chants.

Addressing the district judge, he said: "You may think it extraordinary that a man steeped and trained in observation, as a police officer is, has apparently little or no recollection of those events, when they must be vivid or burnt on his mind."

He said if actions such as those in Paris go unpunished or uncommented upon, "football fans viewing it may come to the conclusion that they can act with impunity".

Mr Sylla told the court that he was "violently" pushed off the train as a Chelsea fan pointed to his skin colour.

In a short extract from Mr Sylla's statement read out in court, he said: "When I approached them to enter the coach, one of them pushed me away violently to put me back on to the platform.

"I again approached the carriage, explaining to this person I wanted to get back on the train.

"He didn't seem to understand what I said to him and other supporters behind him were shouting and singing in English."

The case was adjourned until 9.30pm next Wednesday when the judge will give his ruling.

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