Man in court accused of sending threatening messages to Nicola Sturgeon

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A man accused of sending threatening messages to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on social media and of abducting a sheriff may be barred from representing himself in legal proceedings, a court has heard.

William Curtis and another man with whom he is accused of the incident involving the sheriff both said they do not want legal representation when they appeared at the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday.

However they were told the Crown may apply to have solicitors appointed for them due to the involvement of vulnerable witnesses in the case.

Curtis, 69, is accused of behaving in a threatening or abusive manner which was “likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm” by sending emails and posting messages on social media in which he made threatening remarks towards Ms Sturgeon on various occasions between February 27 and March 6, 2019.

He is further accused of allegedly sending or causing a message to be sent through social media on March 9, 2019 to Stewart Stevenson MSP which threatened him and contained a link to a video relating to the murder of the MP Jo Cox.

He also faces two other charges of posting messages of a “threatening and abusive nature” on social media in October 2020 and June 2021.

Curtis and Philip Mitchell, 60, are accused of assaulting and abducting a sheriff in a car park in Banff, Aberdeenshire, on June 29, 2021.

High Court in Glasgow
The hearing took place at the High Court in Glasgow (John Linton/PA)

It is alleged they seized Robert McDonald, sheriff of Grampian, Highlands and Islands at Banff, pulled him to the ground, sat on top of him and detained him there against his will.

All the alleged offences happened in Aberdeenshire.

Curtis has pleaded not guilty to the charges while Mitchell has not yet entered a plea.

Lord Weir asked whether they had given any further thought to having legal representation.

Curtis replied: “As far as legal representation is concerned, no.”

Mitchell also said he did not want to be represented.

Advocate Depute Lisa Gillespie QC said the Crown may make an application at the next hearing to have solicitors appointed for the two men.

She told the court: “It’s likely that at the next calling of the case the Crown will submit to the court that the accused should be prohibited from conducting their defence personally.

“As your Lord knows, the Criminal Procedures Scotland Act gives the court power to prohibit the personal conduct of defence in various categories of case involving vulnerable witnesses.

“In the circumstances of this case, the Crown is concerned that there is the potential for vulnerable witnesses to be subjected to prolonged cross-examination.”

Lord Weir advised Curtis and Mitchell to reconsider whether they want legal representation before the case calls for the next hearing on August 24.

A trial was fixed for next year at a previous hearing.

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