Marie Rimmer’s relief court ordeal is finally over

Labour MP Marie Rimmer leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court
Labour MP Marie Rimmer leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court

St Helens MP Marie Rimmer has spoken of her delight after being cleared of kicking a Yes campaigner outside a polling station on the day of the Scottish independence referendum more than two years ago.

Ms Rimmer, 69, had travelled from St Helens to Glasgow to help her party campaign in the final days of the referendum and was stationed at Shettleston community centre on the day of the vote, where she handed out leaflets opposite independence activists.

She was accused of kicking Patricia McLeish outside the community centre on September 18 2014, but the case was found not proven on Wednesday following a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Sheriff Kenneth Hogg questioned why the case had even come to court and said he was “disappointed” that police officers were not allowed to use discretion on the day of the referendum.

The court had heard differing versions of a discussion that took place between the two campaigning groups outside the polling station about Scottish, Liverpool and Labour politics.

Ms Rimmer said she tried to strike up a conversation with Ms McLeish but was later called a “red Tory”.

She said Ms McLeish later accused her of kicking her, leaving the MP “shocked”.

The politician left the polling station but was arrested when she later returned.

Giving evidence, Ms McLeish said she told police she did not want to press charges but officers said they had been instructed to take a zero-tolerance policy for incidents that day.

Sheriff Hogg said he was “astonished” by some of the evidence in the case, describing it as a “storm in a tea cup”.

He suggested a “yellow card would have been preferable to a red” in dealing with the matter on the day.

He said: “I am not clear any party in this case, apart from the lady police officer, has told me what really happened on that day.

“I have unease with the whole evidence and am still unable to form a clear picture.”

In his closing submission, defence solicitor Liam Ewing had said there was “an inescapable” political context to the case which made some involved more interested in the outcome than they would otherwise be.

He said the charge would not normally be prosecuted at sheriff court level but that the outcome was of “critical importance” to his client.

Sheriff Hogg found the case not proven and told Ms Rimmer she was free to go.

The St Helens South and Whiston MP, who was a councillor at the time, was found not guilty of a second charge of acting in a threatening or abusive manner at the polling station earlier this week.

Speaking outside the court, she said she was relieved the case was finally over.

“I’m delighted to have been acquitted by the sheriff today. I want to thank my legal team and the Labour Party and the people of St Helens and Whiston for their support during these two years.

“I’d like to echo the sheriff’s comment that this matter should not have been treated in this way.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to my constituency and getting on with doing the job that I’ve been elected to do.

“I was only elected last year and it’s been very difficult going to Westminster with this charge round my neck.

“I’m absolutely delighted, drained, but delighted.”

The MP said she has travelled to Glasgow seven times for hearings in the case, which has been disrupted by a number of adjournments and a scrapped initial trial due to a mistake on the charge sheet.

The 69-year-old said she would return to campaign in Glasgow again, but in a more relaxed role.

“Should there ever be another referendum I’ll come back, but I think I’ll be office based,” she added.