CELTIC and Scotland striker, Leigh Griffiths, walked free from Edinburgh’s Justice of the Peace Court after a charge of assault against him was deserted.
The 23-year old footballer had been charged with assaulting a 22-year old man by seizing him by the neck and clothing and pushing him onto the road at North Bridge, Edinburgh, on June 19 last year. He denied the charge and lodged a special defence of self-defence. He arrived for his trial in the company of his girlfriend, Linzi McCartney.
When the case called before Justice Les McEwan, Fiscal Depute Sarah Lumsden, asked that the trial be adjourned as two Crown witnesses, the man allegedly assaulted and another man, had not been cited to appear. She said the man were no longer living at the addresses they had been when the assault allegedly took place. She added that if the men could be traced “I understand there is nothing to suggest these individuals are reluctant to attend”. She said she had only been made aware that the men had not been cited on Tuesday and asked for a new trial date of June 19.
The Fiscal added: “It is in the public interest this case continues. This was a violent and unprovoked attack on a complete stranger to the accused on a public street, the North Bridge, in the middle of the day about one o’clock”.
Griffiths’ defence solicitor, Kathleen More, said she opposed The Crown motion “in the strongest possible terms due to the personal circumstances of the accused. He is a professional footballer of considerably high profile playing for Scotland and Celtic football club. These proceedings are having a major impact on his career at a national and local level. Every time he requires to be in court he is the subject of media attention and this is stressful to him”. Justice McEwan said he had no knowledge that Griffiths was a footballer.
Ms More pointed out that when the case called on March 19 The Crown had stated that the two witnesses had been cited and they were ready for trial. “The Crown must accept that they are at fault” she said. She added: “The allegation here falls to be a minor assault with no injury. Yes, the incident occurred on the North Bridge but it was when Mr Griffiths was in the company of his girlfriend and two sons, the elder two years old and the other 11 days old”.
After an adjournment to consider the matter, Justice McEwan pointed out that The Crown had stated in March that the men had been cited. He referred to a High Court statement that it was in the public interest that summary cases be dealt with expeditiously. “The complainer indeed has the right to expect justice, but any accused has the right to expect the charges against him to be dealt with expeditiously. Taking that into account, The Crown’s motion to adjourn is refused”.
The Fiscal then asked that the case be deserted “pro loco”, but Ms More objected saying this meant The Crown could renew the case at a later stage. Justice McEwan deserted the case simpliciter and told Griffiths he was free to leave the court.
Griffiths made no comment as he left the building.