Glasgow & West Scotland

Labour MP Marie Rimmer on trial over 'referendum assault'

Marie Rimmer
Image caption Marie Rimmer denies carrying out the assault outside a polling station

A Labour MP has gone on trial accused of kicking a "Yes" campaigner during the Scottish independence referendum.

Marie Rimmer, 69, MP for St Helens South and Whiston, denies assaulting Patricia McLeish outside a Glasgow polling station on 18 September 2014.

Giving evidence, Ms McLeish, 52, said the Merseyside MP spoke aggressively before kicking her on the shin outside Shettleston Community Centre.

The trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court, has been adjourned until July.

The MP is also accused of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner on the same day, by repeatedly approaching volunteers and pointing in the face of Dennis Ashcroft.

'Invaded personal space'

Ms McLeish told the court that Ms Rimmer and another "No" campaigner were outside the centre on the day of the referendum while she and another "Yes" campaigner handed out leaflets.

She told the court: "The accused came in to my face twice, very very close up to my face, invaded my personal space I would say."

Procurator fiscal depute Adele McDonald asked: "Did you see where she had come from?"

Ms McLeish said the first time Rimmer came from behind her adding: "She just approached me face on after I gave somebody a leaflet but didn't say anything, which I found strange."

She claimed that around 10 minutes later the same thing happened again.

The prosecutor asked how she felt the first time it happened and the witness replied: "I thought it was odd, I thought it was quite intimidating behaviour for somebody to do, you don't expect that at a polling station, you don't expect that anywhere, in fact, you don't expect that from an adult.

"Second time she done it again I was getting concerned I thought what's she trying to do here."

The court heard Ms Rimmer then, in an aggressive tone asked Ms McLeish: "Are you a shop steward?"

Ms McLeish said it was as if she was "demanding an answer".

She claimed that in an "equally aggressive" tone, Ms Rimmer asked where she worked and that she replied it was local government.

Ms McLeish said: "I said 'where do you work?' which I would never ask anybody on a polling station and that's when she answered 'I'm the leader of St. Helen's council'.

"And at that point I just disbelieved her because the manner she reacted before I just thought this person is obviously delusional because the leader of a council wouldn't act in that manner and I just tried to ignore her at that point."

'Definitely deliberate'

The court heard Ms Rimmer and Ms McLeish had a disagreement about Liverpool councils in the 1980s.

Ms McLeish said that a short time later she gave somebody a leaflet and Rimmer "came in to her face again" and assaulted her.

Ms McDonald asked if she did anything when she came over to her and she said: "Never said anything again, just in to my face but this time she kicked me."

The witness told the court: "It was definitely deliberate."

Ms McLeish claimed: "I said 'I'm astounded, I have been doing this for 30 years at polling stations, I have never encountered anything like that let alone from another female, an older female at that', I said 'it's a disgrace'."

The court heard she reported the incident to the person in charge of the polling station and the police were called.

She also said she spoke to local Labour party members and told them what happened, including Councillor Frank McAveety.

Ms McLeish claimed she told the police she did not want to press charges, believing Ms Rimmer had mental health problems.

She said she was told that there was a "zero tolerance policy" that day and all incidents had to be reported.

The trial, before Sheriff Kenneth Hogg, will resume in July.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites