A FOOTBALL club has rehired a player who attacked a man with a baseball bat, calling him a “victim”.
Livingston FC has re-signed defender Declan Gallagher, 24, who is facing a three-year jail term for attacking Steven Findlay, 45, outside a hotel in Lanarkshire.
Whilst he is on bail he should be provided with the opportunity to earn a livingLivingston FC
The assault left Mr Findlay with a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain – forcing him to have more than 22 staples inserted into his head as he recovered in a hospital’s high dependency unit.
At Gallagher’s trial last month the judge said: “The only appropriate sentence is one of imprisonment.”
Livingston FC have provoked anger after calling the former Celtic youth player a “victim” – and re-signing him “until such times as his appeal is heard and concluded”.
A statement on the club’s website said: “The verdict of the appeal court will be a significant factor in the long-term future of the player with the club. At this stage the court has considered it appropriate that he be granted his liberty pending the outcome of the appeal.
“We are of the view that whilst he is on bail he should be provided with the opportunity to earn a living and to support his family whilst he continues with the fight to clear his name.
“We appreciate that in this process there are many victims, including Declan, and that not everyone will be comfortable with the approach adopted by the club. The club, however, is not in a position to make judgement.
“Livingston FC hopes that fans and sponsors will recognise and appreciate the approach we have adopted and allow the judicial process to take its course.”
When asked to explain the use of the word “victim”, a club employee who answered the phone to the Evening News said: “The statement was drafted by [Gallagher’s] legal team. We are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until his appeal is heard. [His legal team] must feel that if it goes to appeal and he is not found guilty of hitting someone with a baseball bat, but just assault, then you could argue he is a victim.”
Livingston manager Mark Burchill said he was keeping his promise to stand by the former Dundee stopper. He said: “I made a statement that I would stand by Declan and that’s what I’ve done. He’s obviously been convicted but he’s been allowed out on bail for a reason and he deserves a chance to earn a living.”
The decision was yesterday branded “surprising and disappointing” by political figures.
Graeme Morrice, former MP for Livingston, said: “I’m concerned about what signals this sends out to the wider community as there should be zero tolerance when it comes to violence. It’s particularly distasteful that the club have referred to him as a victim when the real victim is Steven Findlay.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said: “Many will think that, for a club with such a terrific community reputation, this is a surprising move. Of course it’s important for opportunities for rehabilitation to be given. But perhaps the club would have been better waiting for legal proceedings to be concluded.”
Gallagher is awaiting an appeal.