Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 17:31 UK

'Famine Song' conviction appeal

William Walls
Mr Walls committed the offences at an away match against Kilmarnock

A Rangers fan, who was convicted of breach of the peace after singing part of the 'Famine Song' at an away game, has appealed against his conviction.

William Walls, 20, was found guilty of the offence, aggravated by religious and racial prejudice, at Kilmarnock District Court in December last year.

He was put on probation for 18 months and given a football banning order.

The song refers to a famine which killed an estimated one million people in Ireland during the 1840s.

Rangers FC has asked the team's fans not to sing it.

It includes the line, "The famine's over, why don't you go home?" which Mr Walls was seen to sing at the match.

Although he only sang that one line from the song, the police match commander told the original trial that fans who heard it would know the rest of the words.

'Nothing racial'

Mr Walls' defence counsel for the appeal, Donald Findlay QC, said his client had not committed a crime in singing the line.

"There is nothing at all that could in any way be said to be racist or racially motivated about those words," he said.

In her report to the appeal judges, Sheriff Iona McDonald said Walls was clearly aware of the impact of the song. The song was clearly racist, she said, as it referred to people of Irish descent being told to return "home".

Mr Walls, from Cambuskenneth in Glasgow, was sentenced for singing the song and shouting sectarian remarks during a match at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park last November.

The appeal was heard at the Justiciary Appeal Court in Edinburgh on Friday. Appeal judges said they would give a ruling at a later date.

Mr Findlay said the views expressed in the song were political, rather than religious or racial.

"This is not about whether the political element is logical, rational or justified - that is neither here nor there," he said.

Referring to remarks made by Mr Walls which led to the charges, Mr Findlay said: "The reference to 'fenian' is not a religious remark. It is in fact a political observation.

"Its origin is entirely political and relates to the quest for a non-British, united Ireland."

Mr Findlay compared his client's actions to an English person singing a song to Scots about historic battles their country had lost to England.

"The individual would be perfectly entitled to express that view because it is a historical fact.

He added: "The people who over-reacted might be guilty of a breach of the peace, but not the person singing it."

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