Sheriff refuses to stand down in trial over Labour event

This article appeared in The National on Wednesday 27 July 2016.

A GLASGOW sheriff refused to be recused from a trial after being asked to stand down because his brother is a Labour MSP.

Defence lawyer John Flanagan put forward a motion that Sheriff Tom Kelly should step down from yesterday’s proceedings.

His client Sean Clerkin, 55, faced a breach of the peace charge after trying to gain access to a speech by Ed Balls, the then shadow chancellor, at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on April 1, 2015.

Flanagan said because the sheriff’s brother is a Labour MSP it might be seen by the public as a conflict of interest for him to take the case. Replying to the motion, Sheriff Kelly said: “I’m struggling to see what gives rise to the conflict. Simply to suggest there’s a conflict because you are told my brother is an MSP is no basis upon which to ask the court to take such a step.”

He noted, further, that since Flanagan could not refer to an authority or find some factual basis for his claim over impartiality, his motion would be refused.

Flanagan made further claims that he and his client had not received full disclosure, despite repeated requests, and the court was subsequently adjourned until after lunch so Flanagan could consult the list of 17 statements.

After lunch Flanagan put forward the same two motions, this time backing up the first with some case law, though both were refused.

Once under way, Procurator Fiscal Adele MacDonald called Callum Munro, 24, as a witness.

At the time of the incident, Munro was the Scottish Organiser of the Labour Party and he confirmed that he had come into contact with Clerkin that day.

After a 40-minute video of the incident – recorded by an associate of Clerkin and uploaded to YouTube – was played, Munro described the accused’s behaviour as “blustery” and that he “shouted for the best part of an hour”, using phrases such as “Red Tory scum” while trying to gain access to the private event.

He said that he stood his ground as Clerkin pushed against him “very aggressively” using his full body weight and that the incident had left him feeling intimidated and worried about further escalation.

Under cross examination, Munro told the court that it was incorrect to suggest, he had assaulted Clerkin that day, and Clerkin had “feigned” falling over.

When asked why the accused had fallen to the ground during the incident, Munro replied: “You’ll have to ask him [Clerkin] that.”

Clerkin arrived at the court with a flaming piper and stood on the court steps while a rendition of Flower of Scotland was played.

Instead of a suit and tie he wore a blue T-shirt with a picture of William Wallace and the words “Scottish Resistance” on the front.

He and another man Piers Doughty Brown, 56, also face a charge of “behaving in a threatening or abusive manner” towards Labour member Susan Dalgety on May 16 last year as Jim Murphy – then leader of Scottish Labour – announced his resignation.

They deny the charges and the trial was adjourned until September 8.


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