FORMER Hibs striker Garry O’Connor was ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work in the community for possession of cocaine and obstructing police from performing their duties, before later announcing plans to appeal.
O’Connor, of Dirleton, East Lothian, was found guilty of the offences at Edinburgh Sheriff Court at the beginning of this month and sentence was deferred until yesterday for background reports.
Giving evidence at his trial, two police officers told how they saw a large white Land Rover with four people inside parked in Hope Street Lane on May 14 last year. Pc Andrew Morrow said he saw a man in the back of the vehicle snorting what he thought were drugs and identified that man as O’Connor.
Pc Katherine Eager said she went to speak to the footballer and could see “white powder” and a rolled up £20 note beside him. She added that O’Connor told them his name was Johnstone, but when asked to spell it he began to spell “J.O.S”.
He then pushed Pc Eager and ran away only to be stopped by other officers a short distance away. He was found in possession of cocaine with a street value of £460.
Sheriff Derrick McIntyre told O’Connor’s defence agent, Greg Farrell, that half an ounce of cocaine was “quite a lot”.
Mr Farrell replied: “I don’t think there is anything to suggest it went beyond simple possession. He is a young man who, given his profession, had a lot of money and a lot of attention. He is now 29 and should know a lot better.”
The case, he said, had been damaging for O’Connor personally and professionally. He added: “He recognises he is a role model and a drugs charge is particularly damaging.”
Telling the sheriff that O’Connor was willing to undertake any court order, Mr Farrell said his client “has prospects of employment firth of this jurisdiction”. He said: “It sounds like a firm offer and he is confident it is going to be concluded.”
Sentencing O’Connor, Sheriff McIntyre told him that both the offences could carry sentences of up to 12 months. He said he would have been fully justified in sending him to prison for the possession of the significant amount of the Class A drug.
He added: “I would have thought someone in your position would have set some example to other people, including your own son.”
Following the hearing, O’Connor’s lawyers at Bridge Litigation said he would be appealing his conviction.
The law firm said in a statement: “He has now instructed an appeal which will seek to challenge the entire conviction from Edinburgh Sheriff Court.”