SEVEN Dundee United fans who claimed to be “defending women, children and the elderly” from Dynamo Moscow fans during a Europa League qualifier have been cleared of hooliganism charges.
A group of Tannadice supporters stood trial accused of “inciting public disorder” by hurling objects at supporters of the Russian side and brawling with them in the stands during a Europa League qualifier last year.
Darren Elder, David Lawson, Sean Duffy, Greg Campbell, Kevin Drummond, Rory Mulligan and Dale Kelly denied causing disturbances at the match last August.
All the accused except Lawson have lodged special defences claiming they were acting in defence of the elderly, women and children attending the match.
But after a week long trial in front of a jury a sheriff threw out the case against them - after he found photos of the incident submitted by the Crown as evidence of the mens’ guilt were inadmissible.
Sheriff Tom Hughes ruled prosecutors - who lodged a series of books of photographs as evidence - had blundered as no evidence had been given to the jury of who took the photos, if they were in sequence or who compiled them.
Many of the trial’s witnesses - including stewards and police officers - were brought in and asked to comment on the pictures.
Cross examining a police officer during the trial, Jim Laverty, defending one of the men, said: “This is akin to me handing you my holiday photo album and asking you to tell me what’s happening, isn’t it?”
Throwing out the case, Sheriff Hughes said there was “no corroboration” of the charges.
He said: “The evidence contained within these books as productions are inadmissible.
“After reviewing all the evidence it is quite clear that there is no corroborative evidence against the first six accused.”
On the seventh accused, Dale Kelly, Sheriff Hughes said that while a witness saw a person involved in a fight wearing a white shirt and dark trousers, “there was more than one person wearing a white shirt and dark trousers”.
He concluded: “In all the circumstances I will direct the jury to return a not guilty verdict.”
The trial collapsed almost two weeks ago - but reporting of the case was banned as the Crown considered an appeal against the decision to throw out the case.
But that order has now been lifted, meaning the acquittal can now be made public.
The trial had been told that violence had broken out during the match that had “tarnished the reputation” of Dundee United FC.
A group of Russian thugs had attempted to climb into the top tier of the stadium’s Fair Play Stand - which housed home fans for the night.
That led to a mass brawl breaking out on a platform separating the tiers.
Steward Toyim Martindale told the court he saw United fans “stomping” on a Dinamo Moscow fan.
Police officers described the incident as a “very serious” breach of public order, and said “at least 30” people were involved in the incident.
Dundee United club secretary Spence Anderson told the court that United had been fined 17,000 euros by UEFA following two incidents during the match - the mass brawl and another where a fan invaded the pitch at a United goal.
He said the incident had “tarnished the reputation of the club and the city of Dundee throughout Europe”.
Elder, 21, of Broadford Terrace, Dundee, Lawson, 25, of Grampian Gardens, Dundee, Duffy, 24, of Muirfield Court, Dundee, Campbell, 29, of Finavon Place, Dundee, Drummond, 32, of no fixed abode, Mulligan, 30, of Arklay Place and Kelly, 24, of Byron Terrace, pleaded not guilty to the charge under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.
They were cleared after six days of evidence at Dundee Sheriff Court.