Hearts bigot fan to avoid prison term

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A BANNED football fan who sneaked into a Hearts game looks set to avoid a jail term after being caught chanting sectarian abuse.

James Begbie, 19, from Kirkliston, had been punished for threatening Celtic fans on an away trip.

However, on October 15, he gained access to Dunfermline’s East End Park, a game Hearts won 2-0, through a disabled gate, after which he sang a bigoted song.

At Dunfermline Sheriff Court yesterday, he was told he would probably be spared time behind bars because the offence did not take place around Celtic fans.

Prosecutor Azrah Yousaf said: “This man was already subject to a club ban which prevented him attending games at Tynecastle. At about 4.10pm in this match, police became aware of a group of supporters in the disabled area of the ground.

“The accused was heard singing on his own a Hearts song called the Gorgie Boys. It is sung to the tune of the loyalist song, the Billy Boys.

“Fans around him were becoming unrestful about the words he was singing, and he was taken out the ground.

“Police had initially refused the man entry to the game because he was seen as a high-risk supporter. He left the stadium but was seen to enter via the disabled access. He has another conviction for a football-related matter.”

Begbie admitted the sectarian abuse charge and religiously prejudiced breach of the peace, but said he did not consider himself bigoted.

Zander Flett, defending, said: “The song in question shouldn’t be sung by Hearts supporters but is on some occasions. He [Begbie] does not view himself as sectarian. He has currently started working in a factory on a trial basis, and he will be expected to work on Saturdays, which, if nothing else, will stop him attending matches.”

Sheriff Craig McSherry said: “If he was saying this at Celtic Park would this maybe be a greater aggravation, I wonder?

“Taking into account the weekend you spent in custody and that there is no evidence this was directed at opposing supporters. In the circumstances I will defer sentence for good behaviour for three months.”