Orangeman jailed for spitting on Catholic priest outside church

Canon Thomas White and scenes from a typical Orange Walk. Pictures by Bill Heaney of the Dumbarton Democrat

By Democrat reporter

A man who spat on a priest as an Orange Walk marched past a church has been jailed for ten months.

Bradley Wallace, 24, assaulted Canon Thomas White when he was unable to get back inside St Alphonsus Church on London Road, near the Barras market.

His DNA was later found to match saliva on the back of the vestment worn by Canon White on 7 July last year.

Wallace, from Uddingston, South Lanarkshire, admitted the assault last month.

The court was told Wallace had accepted his crime was motivated by anti-Catholicism.

Sheriff Andrew Cubie said: “This is about the courts reflecting disapproval of the depressingly still deep seated and widespread social issue of sectarianism, which generates at the very least tension and at worst both hatred and conflict and which disfigures civilised society.

“The courts in Scotland still deal all too frequently with cases of sectarian abuse which serve to harden and perpetuate divisions in society.”

The Sheriff said Wallace was old enough to be aware of increasing efforts to tackle the problem.

He said: “How could any 24-year-old from Scotland not know that it is wrong to peddle sectarianism?

“It is no doubt partly because of the ‘echo chamber’ effect of much social media, where your loyalties are displayed and perhaps your motivation identified.”

The Sheriff told Wallace he had taken part a “grotesque spectacle” which forced the priest to seek sanctuary in his church after mass to avoid a hostile crowd.

He added: “You could have acted with restraint but rather, no doubt emboldened by, and thinking that you were under the cover of this aggressive and threatening crowd, you took the decision to spit on the priest, an act which is disgusting, cowardly and provocative, which demonstrates contempt and hostility and is designed to humiliate and demean. 

“The whole situation must have been, as you recognise, very frightening for the complainer and those around him.”

Sheriff Cubie said the sentence should serve as a warning to others.

He told the court: “Those tempted to act in a sectarian way must understand society’s repugnance of and weariness of that kind of behaviour and must expect to be dealt with accordingly.”

Procurator fiscal depute Chris Farrell said the annual Boyne Parade in Glasgow had attracted 4,000 participants and an equal number of spectators.

At about 17:00 the parade was on its return route having “splintered off into different factions” which took different routes through the city.

Mr Farrell said: “At this time one of the factions was walking along London Road towards its junction with Kent Street.

“They were flanked by a number of police officers who took position outside of St Alphonsus Church, due to it being a Catholic congregation.”

The court was told Canon White had finished his Sunday Mass and was at the front entrance to say goodbye to his parishioners.

When he saw the parade coming towards the church he tried to get back inside but was unable to due to a bottleneck created by the worshippers coming out.

A large scale disturbance then broke out at the junction between the two streets, which took police away from the church.

As a result, members of the public who had been associating themselves with the parade became more volatile towards the congregation.

It was heard that “a number of this group began to spit towards them” and Wallace, who was amongst the group, spat on Canon White’s back.

Defence lawyer John Coogan said that Wallace had asked for a meeting to apologise to Canon White, but had been prevented from by his bail conditions doing so.

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