Courtroom shut by health alert

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A HEALTH alert shut down a courtroom after a defendant turned up with a highly contagious skin infection.

Business was suspended at Livingston Sheriff Court yesterday after scabies sufferer Patrick O’Connor, 64, sat close to other accused on the public benches before being called into the dock.

He also used the gents’ toilet at the court, based at West Lothian Civic Centre, and may have passed the skin condition – caused by tiny mites which burrow under the skin – on to others.

The last time O’Connor appeared from custody, the sheriff and court officials went down to the cells for the hearing to prevent him infecting other court users. But it was only after he had waited on the public benches for two hours yesterday that it emerged he was still suffering from the complaint.

Sheriff Ken Hogg adjourned the court while officials and lawyers had a hurried consultation about what to do.

It was decided to close the courtroom and toilets and to fumigate and disinfect the areas he had used.

The infestation often starts on the hands and wrists and the mites are easily transferred through contact with skin or material such as seating fabric.

Infected people become extremely itchy and break out in a rash.

O’Connor, of Seafield, West Lothian, denies assaulting a woman at his home on December 23 last year. He is due to stand trial next month for allegedly hitting Maureen Hoban on the head.

A Scottish Court Service spokesman said: “We were informed that a person who had attended at Livingston Sheriff Court had the skin condition scabies.

“As a precautionary measure, business was moved to another available courtroom. No business was lost and the transfer caused only a very short delay.

“The courtroom will be professionally cleaned and should be ready for use again today.”