Monkeypox outbreak delays defence report for Scottish MP’s Covid trial

The monkeypox outbreak has delayed the preparation of a defence report for the trial of an MP who allegedly travelled between Glasgow and London with coronavirus symptoms.

A hearing at Glasgow sheriff court on Tuesday heard that the defence for Margaret Ferrier, now an independent MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, was still awaiting a report from a virologist who had been otherwise engaged with the recent monkeypox outbreak.

Ferrier’s lawyer said she maintains her plea of not guilty to the charge of putting people at risk by travelling while infected.

The former SNP MP, who referred herself to the police and the parliamentary commissioner for standards, was suspended from her party after the alleged rule-breaking came to light in October 2020.

Prosecutors allege Ferrier “culpably and recklessly” put people at risk, making several journeys after having been told to self-isolate between 26 en 29 September 2020.

The charge claims she wilfully exposed people to “the risk of infection, illness and death”, travelling throughout Glasgow and the surrounding areas as well as making journeys to and from London where she sat in the Commons.

Over three days, the 61-year-old is alleged to have visited a variety of local businesses and other locations within her constituency and beyond, including Lifestyle Leisure Centre, Vanilla Salon and Sweet P Boutique in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, St Mungo’s church in Glasgow and Vic’s bar in Prestwick, Ayrshire.

Neal McShane, representing Ferrier, said the defence had not yet received the virologist’s report and that it would be preferable to have a further pre-trial hearing.

He told the court: “An issue that remains outstanding for the defence in relation to this case is that we are attempting to obtain a report from a virologist. A doctor had been identified and we’ve passed him the paperwork, but due to the outbreak of monkeypox he is required to work for a number of different people for that and as such we do not as yet have a report.”

He said the issue of funding for the report also has to be confirmed.

Sheriff Gerard Considine set a further pre-trial hearing for 26 July ahead of the trial, which is expected to last around five days and has been set for 15 Augustus.

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