A FORMER Inverclyde councillor who faced trial on charges relating to a disturbance in Greenock has been dramatically acquitted. 

Ex-SNP group leader Chris McEleny - who is now general secretary of the Alba Party - appeared at the Sheriff Court over an incident which took place in Greenock on September 26, 2021. 

The 37-year-old denied shouting, swearing and repeatedly kicking and banging a door, and maliciously damaging a door handle at an address on Kelly Street.

The Alba politician stated that on the day of the incident, he had travelled to Somerset Park in Ayr to watch Morton play Ayr United, and then went for dinner at the Cafe Continental in Gourock and for drinks at Cleats bar. 

McEleny told the court that he walked to the taxi rank in Gourock and met a group of people, and was invited back to a party at a flat in Kelly Street, Greenock. 

Giving evidence, McEleny said when he arrived at what he thought was the address, he pushed open the close door and travelled up the stairs to the flat where he believed the party was being held.

After knocking on it, McEleny said that a man answered wielding a hammer, asking him why he was at his house. 

McEleny told the court: "It was a startling and shocking experience. 

"He was shouting 'why are you at my door?' and had the hammer in his hand, cocked against his hip. 

"His demeanour was aggressive and he was acting rashly.

"I was naturally very worried. I had never been confronted by someone holding a hammer in an aggressive manner in front of me before.

"Every time I took a step back, he took a step forward and he was raising the hammer."

The court heard that another neighbour in the close eventually managed to defuse the incident, after which McEleny left the building. 

His defence advocate Joseph Barr, instructed by solicitor Gerry Keenan, said McEleny arrived at the property "in good faith" and there was a "huge gaping hole" in the credibility of some of the evidence against him earlier in the trial. 

He pointed to issues relating to an alleged "first incident", the slamming of the close door and the original condition of the door. 

Barr also stated that McEleny saying "sorry" to one of the neighbours as he left the close was "not an admission" but was an "act of civility".

He added: "This incident resulted purely from a misunderstanding. 

"Mr McEleny acted reasonably in the circumstances and it was understandable for him to be shouting. 

"There was a lot of scope for discussion or I hesitate to say collusion in evidence.

"These are factors that should be take into account."

But the fiscal depute described some of McEleny's evidence as "unreliable and not credible".

He added: "Mr McEleny had been drinking and he did concede that the alcohol had changed his behaviour. 

"He didn't contact the police to report the event and instead went to a taxi rank to get a taxi home. 

"The evidence shows he is not being truthful."

When delivering the not proven verdict across both charges, Sheriff Morag Fraser said: "There are inconsistencies in evidence in relation to the damage to the door and the alleged 'first incident'. 

"These are important inconsistencies so I have to give the accused the benefit of the doubt."

In a statement issued after the verdict, McEleny said: "I am naturally pleased at the outcome of this trial in which I was acquitted of both charges. 

"I am thankful to the support of my partner, my family and Alex Salmond over the past years, and grateful to the representation provided by my legal team.

"I am grateful to court staff and our local Greenock police officers who have conducted themselves professionally throughout this process. 

"I intend now to continue to play whatever part I am able to in local and national politics.”