Appeal by stated case against conviction by David Di Pinto against Procurator Fiscal, Glasgow
Oct 6, 2023
Mr Di Pinto was convicted of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner which was likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm. After trial, the sheriff found that the appellant caused a disturbance, repeatedly shouted and swore, uttered a sectarian remark and flailed his arms at police in an offence that was aggravated by religious prejudice. The incident took place at a football match at Hampden Park, Glasgow.
The appellant was fined £500, with a victim surcharge of £20 and he was subject to a 12 month Football Banning Order.
The appellant appealed against the religious aggravation element of the conviction, on the basis that there was no evidence before the court that the use of the word “hun” displayed malice or ill-will towards members of the Protestant faith.
In delivering the opinion of the court, Sheriff Principal Anwar found that it was within judicial knowledge that the term ‘hun’, was capable of being used as a form of sectarian abuse and thus evidence was not necessary. She stated that it did not matter whether Rangers FC were playing in the football match, or whether the appellant knew the constable to be a supporter of Rangers FC or whether he knew the constable to be a member of the Protestant faith.
Sheriff Principal Anwar noted:
“The historic sectarian tensions within Glasgow and particularly between supporters of Rangers FC and Celtic FC are well understood in Scotland. It is also well understood that supporters of Rangers FC are perceived to be predominantly of the Protestant faith and that supporters of Celtic FC are perceived to be predominantly of the Catholic faith. The fact that the word “hun” is used as a derogatory term to describe supporters of Rangers FC, who are perceived to be predominantly of the Protestant faith, is, in our view, a matter of judicial knowledge.
There are many theories and much speculation as to the origins of the term “hun”. It is variously claimed as a reference to nomadic people who invaded the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries, as a derogatory name for German soldiers or as a colloquial reference to a savage. We do not accept that in a footballing context those using the term are doing so by any genuine reference to its historic usage. Whatever the historical origins of the word, in its modern usage well informed persons in the west of Scotland recognise that when used in a footballing context, the word has now been adopted as an abusive sectarian term used to cause offence to those of the Protestant faith, not simply as a reference to a supporter of Rangers FC. It is, in that respect, no different to the use of the term “fenian” as a form of sectarian abuse to describe Celtic supporters who are perceived to be predominantly of the Roman Catholic faith (Walls v Brown, per Lord Carloway at paragraph 21).
The sheriff was accordingly correct to conclude that when the appellant used the expression “hun c***s””, the appellant evinced malice or ill-will towards the police constables based on his perception that they were supporters of Rangers FC and members of the Protestant faith.”
The Sheriff Appeal Court refused the appeal.
The opinion published on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website is the only authoritative document.