Marie Rimmer cleared of assault charge

Labour MP Marie Rimmer leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court
Labour MP Marie Rimmer leaves Glasgow Sheriff Court
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A Labour MP has been cleared of kicking a Yes campaigner outside a polling station on the day of the Scottish independence referendum.

Marie Rimmer, 69, had travelled from St Helens, Merseyside, 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 following a trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

The St Helens South and Whiston MP, who was a councillor at the time, was cleared of a second charge of acting in a threatening or abusive manner at the polling station earlier this week.

The trial in front of Sheriff Kenneth Hogg started in April but has faced a number of adjournments.

The initial case in 2015 was scrapped because the word “Glasgow” was not included in court papers outlining the charge, but the Crown Office raised the charges again.

Ms Rimmer was elected to Westminster in 2015 with a majority of more than 20,000, and had previously served as a local councillor for decades.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, she said she tried to strike up a conversation with Ms McLeish but was later called a “red Tory”.

She said Ms McLeish was only yards away from her and turned to walk away before quickly turning back and saying Ms Rimmer had kicked her.

“I was shocked. I said ‘I never touched you’,” the Labour MP told the court.

“I would never dream of hurting anyone or kicking anyone.

“I wasn’t aggressive, anything but. If anyone was aggressive, it was Ms McLeish against me.”

Giving evidence in April, Ms McLeish said she did nothing to provoke the alleged assault.

The Unison shop steward and Glasgow City Council worker told the court she was handing out Yes campaign leaflets at the polling station entrance at about 12.30pm when Ms Rimmer approached her twice, standing less than a foot from her face, staring at her without speaking.

Ms McLeish said she later told police she did not want to press charges as she believed her attacker was ‘’mentally ill’’, but they said they had 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 said a lack discretion available to the police on the day of the referendum was “very disappointing”, suggesting a “yellow card would have been preferable to a red” in the matter.

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.”

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

In his closing submission, defence solicitor Liam Ewing had said there was “an inescapable” political context to the case which made some 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.

Fiscal depute Adele MacDonald had urged the sheriff to side with the Crown witnesses and said the evidence showed it was not a “malicious allegation” but had happened.