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Lennon lunge fan handed jail term

A Hearts fan cleared of assaulting Celtic manager Neil Lennon has been jailed for eight months for a breach of the peace amid a "highly volatile" atmosphere during a clash between the two clubs.

John Wilson, 26, was also handed a five-year football banning order after he charged towards Lennon and shouted and swore at him in the May 11 game at Edinburgh's Tynecastle stadium.

A sheriff told Wilson his actions that night, amid an already "tense" and "poisonous" atmosphere between the two sets of supporters, had "serious potential consequences".

"It has to be clearly understood by you and others that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated and will be punished, and punished firmly, by the courts," Sheriff Fiona Reith QC told him at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Television viewers looked on as Wilson, from the city, invaded the pitch and charged towards Lennon during the crucial Clydesdale Bank Premier League game. The incident unfolded just after Celtic went two goals up.

After a three-day trial last month, a jury found Wilson guilty of conducting himself in a disorderly manner, running on to the pitch, running at the away team dugout, shouting, swearing, causing disturbance to the crowd and breaching the peace.

The panel of eight men and seven women deleted an allegation that the offence was aggravated by religious prejudice and cleared him of making a sectarian remark during the incident.

Unemployed labourer Wilson was also accused of a sectarian attack on Lennon, but he was acquitted after jurors found the charge was not proven. The verdict came despite Wilson admitting in open court that he had lunged at the Celtic manager and struck him on the head.

Sheriff Reith told Wilson he was convicted of a "serious" crime in a crowd of more than 16,000 football supporters.

She said one police officer told the court that the whole stadium "erupted" after Wilson's actions. "He described how extreme antagonism between both sets of supporters of a bigoted, sectarian nature 'really kicked off', as he put it. He described the atmosphere at this point as being very, very volatile and he feared a pitch incursion as the crowd was angry," she added.


From Belfast Telegraph