St Andrews anti-Jewish abuse case appeal

A man who racially abused a Jewish student in his halls of residence has launched an attempt to have his conviction overturned.

Paul Donnachie, of Blackpool, was sentenced to community service last September after he was found guilty of attacking Chanan Reitblat at a St Andrews University hall of residence.

During the incident Donnachie, 19, put his hands down his trousers before wiping them on an Israeli flag.

At Edinburgh's High Court of Criminal appeal on Wednesday, Donnachie's lawyer argued that the original trial had not been conducted correctly.

John Scott QC said Sheriff Charles Macnair QC had been wrong to not allow three witnesses to give evidence supporting Donnachie's argument that his protest had been a political one about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than an attack on Mr Reitblat's religious beliefs.

Donnachie was expelled from St Andrews after his conviction, but has since started studying at a new university. Mr Scott said characterising Donnachie as antisemitic was a "grave insult".

Lead prosecution lawyer Alex Prentice QC told the court that the evidence of the three witnesses would have been "irrelevant". He said an academic discussion on the politics of the Middle East would have been of no help in the trial or Sheriff Macnair's verdict.

The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, heard the appeal with Lord Mackay and Lord Bonomy. They questioned the relevance of the sheriff's decision.

The judges reserved their judgment and will give a ruling within three months.

Last updated: 3:42pm, April 4 2012