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Man taken to cells after refusing to wear facemask properly while in court

Matthew Ritchie appeared at Peterhead Sheriff Court.

A man has been found in contempt of court after “deliberately ignoring” a sheriff’s request for him to wear his facemask properly.

Matthew Ritchie had only been in the dock for a matter of minutes when he sparked the ire of Sheriff Annella Cowan and was thrown in the cells.

He was appearing at Peterhead Sheriff Court to tender not guilty pleas to charges of assault and resisting arrest but it was his poor facemask placement that landed him in trouble.

The 28-year-old was wearing a mask over his mouth but not his nose – prompting Sheriff Cowan to request it be worn over properly while in her court.

He briefly corrected his mask to cover his nose, but as he left the dock he defiantly pulled it down again.

That prompted a furious response from the sheriff, who blasted him for “deliberately ignoring” her orders and called on the courtroom cop to take Ritchie into custody immediately.

Sheriff Annella Cowan. Photo by Kath Flannery.

‘What have I even done wrong?’

Amid shouts of “what have I even done wrong?” he was taken downstairs and held in the cells.

A chastened Ritchie reappeared in the dock around 90 minutes later – and with his mask in the correct position – and apologised to Sheriff Cowan.

His defence agent Marianne Milligan said: “He has asked me to apologise on his behalf. He didn’t mean to be or appear to be rude or disrespectful.”

The sheriff warned him: “When you are asked to do something by someone in authority, get into the habit of doing it.

“It will benefit you in the long run.”

Anyone appearing in court can be found in contempt for a number of reasons, including wilful defiance of, or disrespect towards, the court or those in authority there.

Punishment could include a fine or up to 21 days imprisonment.

Ritchie, however, was admonished following his stern warning.

“This will be recorded as contempt of court and in respect of that charge you will be admonished,” Sheriff Cowan added.

Ritchie, of Ferndale East Moss Croft, Percyhorner, denied biting someone at Fraserburgh Hospital then assaulting police and resisting arrest there on September 10.

That case will go to trial next year.

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