A CELTIC fan who sang a pro-IRA song at a match has been cleared in a landmark ruling of behaving in an offensive manner likely to incite public disorder.

Calum Graham, 21, was identified on video by police singing The Roll of Honour when Inverness Caledonian Thistle played at home against Celtic on August 25, 2012.

The Roll of Honour is a pro-IRA song commemorating hunger strikers in Northern Ireland prisons.

The Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation has been criticised by lawyers since its introduction last year.

They claim supporters are facing police harassment, with their rights routinely eroded.

And, they say, many cases brought against fans have been dropped or found not proven.

Mr Graham, from Glasgow, admitted he was one of a group singing the song, and he had often done so. But he denied behaving in an offensive manner likely to incite public disorder.

Clearing Graham, Inverness Sheriff Margaret Neilson said it was not enough for a chant to be offensive, it also had to be "likely to incite public disorder".

"Parliament clearly has it in mind that you must pass this hurdle for it to be an offence," she explained, admitting she had "certain sympathy" with the police trying to deal with the legislation.

The court heard Graham was among dozens of fans caught chanting on camera by officers drafted in from Glasgow.

PC Barry Inglis told the Inverness Sheriff Court trial he believed the song could have sparked trouble at the near sell-out game.

The fact it did not was down to the strong police presence and the number of stewards on duty.

He added the song had been changed to include the words: "England you're a bastard". Asked by defence solicitor Duncan Henderson how many of the dozens singing the song were arrested, he said only two arrests were made.

Mr Henderson said the Roll of Honour spoke of the aspirations of Ireland becoming "a nation once again" and asked PC Inglis if the anthem for the Scotland football and rugby teams, Flower of Scotland, contained a similar ideas.

The officer agreed it did but added The Roll of Honour was a song which supported a terrorist organisation.

Police Sergeant Neil Macleod who trains officers about offensive behaviour at football grounds, was on duty at the match and at half-time was told complaints had been received about songs.

Mr Graham was easily identified because he wore a distinctive white tee-shirt and was raising his arms.

Mr Graham, said to have never been in trouble with police before, told the court he had been to more than 300 Celtic matches and regularly sang the song.

After the case he said: "I'm relieved. The last 10 months have been terrible and I'm glad it's all over." But he added: "I will never sing the song again."

After the case Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said: "It's no surprise to see chaotic legislation drawn up on the hoof is failing to work. Like so many things the SNP does, it was simply not thought through.

"And the problem then gets worse, because as courtroom snubs of this nature increase, the very people the Scottish Government were trying to crack down on become more brazen."

Dave Scott, campaign director for anti-sectarian charity Nil By Mouth, said: "It is very important that we do not ignore the political dimension to sectarianism in Scotland and the vast majority of people would believe that the song in question has no place at a football match.

"However, this outcome and the sheriff's remarks underline the urgent need to review this legislation as there seems to be considerable confusion between the courts, politicians, police and supporters as to what constitutes a breach of this law."