(From March 2007)
Abuse case fan walks free
By Lars Niven
A Rangers fan who shouted sectarian abuse during a Scottish Cup tie with Dunfermline has been cleared of committing an offence because nobody was upset by his remark.
John Dryburgh from Glasgow, stood up and yelled “You Fenian bastard!” as his team trailed the Pars by two goals with just 30 minutes of the third round match gone.
Sheriff Ian Dunbar ruled he had not committed a breach of the peace because there was no evidence to suggest that anyone had been upset by what he said.
Dryburgh (27), of O’Neill Avenue, Bishopbriggs, who works as a postman, was sitting in the north-east stand at East End Park along with another 1300 Rangers supporters at the time.
Two security guards employed by Rock Steady event management reported Dryburgh to the police after they saw him stand up and shout the remark as well as the words “Black bastard!” He was pulled from the crowd and taken to town’s police station where he was charged with committing a breach of the peace on January 7 of this year by making religious comments.
Dryburgh denied making the comments when he appeared at Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday.
He stood trial before Sheriff Dunbar and maintained the only thing he shouted was “Baldie bastard!” at a linesman after his team were denied a penalty.
Gerrard Carstairs (50), from Dunfermline, was working as a supervisor for Rock Steady and was standing about five rows behind Dryburgh and his friend Stewart Cairns.
He told Depute Fiscal Joanna Nicholson, “I saw a male stand up, cup his hands round his mouth and shout, ‘You Fenian bastard!’
“It is usually a derogatory remark aimed at Catholics.
“It’s something that’s been over a number of years used by Rangers fans towards Celtic fans.”
He reported the matter to a police officer and was told to keep an eye on the accused.
Ten minutes later Dryburgh stood up and shouted, “Black bastard!”
Mr Carstairs spoke to the police again and Dryburgh and Mr Cairns were asked to leave the stand and subsequently arrested. The match ended with a 3-2 victory for Dunfermline.
Mr Cairns was released without charge.
Mr Carstairs insisted it was Dryburgh he had seen stand up and hurl the abuse.
“He drew attention to himself just by standing up,” he said.
His Rock Steady colleague, Linda Clark (40), from Govan, added, “I witnessed a male stand up and shout sectarian abuse, Fenian bastard.
“Shortly after that the words ‘black bastard’ were shouted by the same gentleman.
“I hadn’t taken my eyes off him from the first incident.”
Cross-examined by defence solicitor Lyndsey McCran Miss Clark said there was a sense of “animosity among the Rangers fans,” probably because they were losing.
She confirmed she had heard such remarks before and was not unduly concerned by what was said.
Dryburgh admitted he was upset because Rangers were losing and they had just been denied a penalty.
“The linesman was bald, so I shouted, ‘Baldie bastard!’”
He categorically denied using sectarian language, but admitted it still happened at football matches although not as much as it used to.
“The issue has been brought to the public’s attention,” he said.
His friend, Stewart Cairns (42), of Robroyston, Glasgow, added that he never heard the accused say anything sectarian or use the phrase “black bastard!”
Any shouting they did was directed at the linesman because he was having “rather a bad game.”
Sheriff Dunbar accepted the evidence of Mr Carstairs and Miss Clark that Dryburgh had shouted the abuse.
However, he said the test of whether Dryburgh had committed a breach of the peace had to be whether any reasonable person within the vicinity who heard the remarks was upset by them.
He added that while the remark “Fenian bastard!” may well be offensive, he had to consider the context in which it was used.
Dryburgh was sitting in a stand full of Rangers supporters and there was no evidence he had upset anyone.
“I do not accept an offence has been committed,” he said.
“But that does not mean that to use such words would not be an offence under a different set of circumstances.”
Dryburgh, a lifelong Rangers fan, walked free from the dock.