A Scottish Premiership footballer was yesterday found guilty of breach of the peace and making offensive comments on a night out before Christmas last year.
Inverness Caledonian Thistle defender Josh Meekings was arrested in the city centre after making a comment describing homosexuality in a derogatory way.
But during a trial at Inverness Sheriff Court, a Sheriff ruled Meekings had been provoked by his victim, who had shouted racist abuse towards the 23-year-old player.
He ruled that Meekings’s comment was offensive but not prompted by sexual orientation prejudice and it had been said “in the heat of the moment”.
Meekings went on trial accused of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner likely to case a reasonable person fear and alarm in that he did shout, swear, challenge people to fight, utter offensive remarks, and behave in an aggressive manner towards police officers, an offence aggravated by sexual orientation.
Defence lawyer John MacColl told the court that his client had already offered a guilty plea admitting the city centre confrontation with police after his team drew 2-2 with Dundee United just before Christmas.
However he said Meekings denied that his breach of the peace on December 20 on Bridge Street was aggravated by sexual orientation prejudice.
So the centre back went to trial yesterday.
Sgt Dale Hanson told fiscal depute Stewart MacIver: “I was on foot patrol in the High Street and saw a group outside Inverness Town House and Meekings was one of them.
“He was gesticulating aggressively towards a man.”
PS Hanson told how they tried to move Meekings on, but he “lunged” towards the victim, who has not been named and did not give evidence,and shouted an offensive remark.
The officer continued: “This is a derogatory term towards homosexuals and the man seemed shocked by it.”
The officer told how the man did not want to make a complaint, but Meekings was arrested because he refused to leave.
Mr MacColl asked for an absolute discharge, adding: “It was conduct in the face of deliberate baiting and vile racist abuse directed at him. His was a spontaneous remark said in the heat of the moment.”
Sheriff Fleetwood said he accepted that and told Meekings: “I will defer sentence for six months for good behaviour. If there is no repeat of this nonsense, then it is open to the court to grant you an absolute discharge which will mean you will not have a criminal record.”