Belfast Telegraph

Rangers fan faces jail for threatening to kill Neil Lennon in foul-mouthed Facebook rant

By Rory Cassidy

A Rangers fan has admitted threatening to kill Hibernian manager and former Northern Ireland captain Neil Lennon in a foul-mouthed Facebook rant.

An incensed Sean Cowan said he would get a gun and shoot the former Celtic captain and manager in the head after he cupped his ears in celebration during Hibs' win at Ibrox.

Cowan, 54, made the remarks on the Facebook page of Rangers fan site Follow Follow on Saturday, August 12, following Hibs' 3-2 victory over the Glasgow side.

At around 10pm that night, he posted three comments, saying: "Somebody give me a weapon and I will shoot this little terrorist c**t in the head with impunity.

"I’m serious. I would.

"I can get one, not a problem. Police Scotland are probably all over it now though. I have previous for firearms so I'm expecting a chap soon."

Cowan tried to cover his tracks by deleting the messages from the social media site.

But he was snared thanks to an unnamed witness who took screenshots of the messages and passed them to police - leading to his arrest and conviction.

Many people on this site - the idiots, frankly - state to 'never surrender' or say 'no surrender' Mr Cowan has surrendered and accepted his responsibility.

And he now faces being jailed for the offence when he returns to the dock at Paisley Sheriff Court next month to learn his fate.

The details emerged on Tuesday when Cowan, of Johnstone, Renfrewshire, appeared in the dock for a pre-trial hearing.

He struck a deal with prosecutors which saw him plead guilty to one charge in exchange for the second being dropped.

He pleaded guilty to breaking Section 6(1) and (2) of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, in that he "did communicate material to another person which consisted of, contained or implied a threat or an incitement to carry out a seriously violent act against a person or persons of a particular description and was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm".

The charge further states Cowan "did intend to cause fear or alarm or [was] reckless as to whether communication of the material would cause fear or alarm in that [he] did post on the social media application Facebook, messages containing a threat to shoot in the head Neil Lennon".

In exchange for his guilty plea, a charge that he had also breached Section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003 "by means of a public electronic communications network" by "posting a message to the social media application Facebook, that was grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that said message contained a grossly offensive remark regarding Neil Lennon".

The address of Lurgan-born Lennon, 45, is given on court papers as "c/o the Police Service of Scotland".

Procurator Fiscal Depute Pamela Flynn said that the matter was reported to Police Scotland's Football Coordination Unit on August 14 this year - two days after the comments had been made.

The prosecutor explained: "It was was regarding offensive comments posted on Facebook.

"The posts were made on the Rangers Football Club fans forum by the name of Follow Follow.

"They noted the comments were made around 10pm on August 12, this followed a Rangers versus Hibernian fixture that day.

"Three messages were posted by the accused which referred to Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon."

Police began investigating further and while Cowan's Facebook account was still active, he had deleted the comments.

But the person who initially contacted police - who was not named in court - had copied them and passed them to police.

Officers then headed to Cowan's home to detain him and, when cautioned and charged, he said: "I'm disgusted."

Defence solicitor Terry Gallanagh - a partner in law firm McCusker, McElroy and Gallanagh - said: "Essentially the background is that there was a game at Ibrox involving Rangers and Hibernian.

"While many people on this internet site - the idiots, frankly - state to 'never surrender' or say 'no surrender' Mr Cowan has surrendered and accepted his responsibility.

"He is truly sorry and disgusted with himself."

Mr Gallanagh had asked Sheriff Vincent Canavan to deal with Cowan there and then.

But the sheriff ruled the matter was too serious to be dealt with on the spot and had to call for background reports from social workers ahead of sentencing.

He said: "Given the prevalence of this type of thing my intention is to call for a report.

"I'm going to call for a full range of Criminal Justice Social Work Reports."

Cowan, who has previous convictions for assault and assault to severe injury, was released on bail and could be caged when he returns to the dock next month.

Lennon had also been the subject of a probe over his goal celebrations in the August win but police later confirmed he will not face any action.

He was being investigated after Rangers fans were left outraged by his Ibrox touchline antics.

But a Police Scotland spokeswoman said: "After complaints and talks with the Procurator Fiscal, it has been established that no criminality took place.

"Therefore no further action will be taken."

Bears supporters group Club 1872 accused the Easter Road boss of trying to "incite trouble" as he celebrated the 3-2 win.

After Simon Murray’s leveller he faced the main stand, kept his arms aloft, cupped his ears, then made a pumped fist gesture - prompting one fan to throw a lighter which missed him by a few feet.

A spokesperson for Club 1872 said: "He seems completely unable to control himself at Ibrox.

"Mr Lennon has previous for abusing and goading both Rangers staff and fans."

But Lennon insisted he had done nothing wrong and hit back: "I celebrated a goal."

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