Court forced to close after ‘defendant with Covid-19 threatens to cough’

A court case had to be abandoned after it transpired that an apparently Covid-positive defendant had allegedly made threats to "cough everywhere" during his trial.

Ryan Keating appeared in the dock at Liverpool Magistrates' Court this morning accused of driving while high on cannabis, the Liverpool Echo reported.

The 27-year-old, from Kirkby in Liverpool denies drug driving when at the wheel of a vehicle in March this year and after entering his not guilty plea and leaving the room, court staff were made aware of posts he had allegedly made on social media.

A Snapchat account with the username Ryan Keato seemingly posted a selfie yesterday with the caption: "Dien of this corna mate wow."

The error-strewn message was accompanied by a shocked face emoji.

A box of prescription medicine can also be seen next to the head of the bare chested man in the photo, as he is shown lying down on a sofa.

In the first of two further social media posts, an Instagram account with the username romeo_unoo_ – which has a web link in its bio to r.keato – posted a message: "Only in court tomozz hahah gonner coff every wer hahahah."

A second photo posted by the same account shows what appears to be a Covid-19 antigen test cassette, with the accompanying caption: "New it wernt just hang over".

As a result of the allegations, Courtroom 2-3 at the Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts in Derby Square had to be vacated by staff, before it was subjected to a deep clean.

Keating had spoken only to confirm his personal details and to plead not guilty to driving a motor vehicle with a proportion of a specified controlled drug above the specified limit on 19 March this year.

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Keating is set to stand trial at the magistrates' court in January.

He was remanded on bail and told to next attend a further case management hearing at the court on October 20.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) told the ECHO the courtroom was closed as a precautionary measure and that other cases were not affected by the incident.

An HMCTS spokesman said: "Liverpool Magistrates' Court staff acted swiftly once concerns were raised and as a precaution the courtroom was closed and deep cleaned – scheduled hearings were unaffected."

Government guidance states that you should not come to a court or tribunal hearing if you have coronavirus symptoms, whether or not you have tested positive, or are waiting for a test result.

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