BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
Mark Burchill has insisted he is keeping his promise to stand by Declan Gallagher as Livingston made the astonishing claim that the re-signed defender is a ‘victim’ – just weeks after he was jailed for an attack that left a man with a fractured skull.
The 24-year-old was convicted in June of carrying out a ‘brutal’ assault with a baseball bat and was last month sentenced to a three-year term in prison, leaving his football career in serious doubt.
However, the former Dundee stopper was granted bail, pending his appeal against conviction and sentence, and had been training with Livingston, where he spent last season and made 33 appearances.
The West Lothian outfit confirmed on Thursday they have now re-signed the one-time Celtic trainee ‘until such times as his appeal is heard and concluded’, and Burchill has defended the controversial move.
The Lions boss said: “At the end of the season, I made a statement that I would stand by Declan and that’s what I’ve done.
“He’s obviously been convicted but he’s been allowed out on bail for a reason and he deserves a chance to earn a living.
“I’ve signed Declan as a footballer and, until such times as his situation changes, then hopefully supporters will accept him as footballer.
“He’s fit and ready to play but whether that will be this weekend I don’t know.”
In a statement released by the club, Livingston accepted that ‘not everyone’ would be ‘comfortable’ with the decision to re-sign Gallagher, who they declared is one of ‘many victims in this process’.
However, the Almondvale outfit – whose stadium deal with Energy Assets was this week terminated with immediate effect, despite having a year left to run – said they hoped fans and sponsors would ‘allow the judicial process to take its course’.
The statement said: “Livingston FC has decided to re-sign Declan Gallagher until such times as his appeal is heard and concluded.
“The verdict of the Appeal Court will be a significant factor in the long-term future of the player with the club.
“At this stage the High Court of Justiciary has considered it appropriate that he be granted his liberty pending the outcome of the appeal.
“We are of the view that whilst he is on bail he should be provided with the opportunity to earn a living and to support his family whilst he continues with the fight to clear his name.
“We appreciate that in this process there are many victims, including Declan, and that not everyone will be comfortable with the approach adopted by the club. The club, however, is not in a position to make judgement.
“Livingston FC hopes that fans and sponsors will recognise and appreciate the approach we have adopted and allow the judicial process to take its course.”