A doctor suspected of trying to administer a poisonous substance to his mother’s partner is now facing charges of production and use of the chemical weapon, ricin.

Dr Thomas Kwan, a GP partner at Happy House Surgery, in Sunderland, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, arising out of the alleged incident from which the 70-year-old complainant, Patrick O’Hara, was taken seriously ill, on January 22.

Police inquiries in the case led to a full-scale search of the defendant’s large detached home in Brading Court, Ingleby Barwick, on Teesside, by members of the emergency services wearing specialist protective equipment, over several days in early February.

The Northern Echo: POlice vehicles at scene of the search of Dr Kwan's home in Ingleby Barwick in early February

Police confirmed that the alleged victim was not one of Dr Kwan’s patients and that the offence is alleged to have taken place in the Newcastle area.

Having made a brief appearance before magistrates last month, the case was sent to Newcastle Crown Court where the 52-year-old defendant appeared, via video link from Hull Prison, before Judge Paul Sloan, the Recorder of Newcastle, today (Wednesday, March 6).

The hearing was told that the prosecution has brought two further charges against Dr Kwan in a new indictment, to be put to the defendant, "in due course”.

Those relate to the alleged production of, and use of, a chemical weapon, ricin, offences said to have taken place between January 1 and January 22.

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But the court heard that no charges will be put to the doctor at the moment, as he is to be examined to assess his fitness to plead.

Medical experts will need to be appointed by the defence and prosecution sides to consider the issue of the defendant’s fitness to plead, with up to six weeks for those assessments to be concluded.

Judge Sloan, therefore, adjourned the case for the fitness to plead issue to be resolved either prior to, or at a further case management hearing, at the court on May 20.

He also said there should be a pre-trial hearing on July 4, ahead of the start of the trial, itself, on Monday, July 29.

Setting the timetable for submission of evidence, it was agreed the prosecution case should be served by March 28, with a defence statement to be submitted, subject to the defendant’s fitness status, by April 25.

Addressing Dr Kwan, Judge Sloan told him he could appear at the two listed pre-trial hearings by video link from prison, as with today’s hearing.

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The judge gave the GP the standard advice that if he has committed any offence arising from the allegations he faces, the sooner he makes admissions, the more credit will accrue, leading to a reduction in sentence.

But the judge added the longer he leaves it, should he admit any offences, the more severe will be the punishment.

Hong Kong-born Dr Kwan, a father-of-one, who came to the UK 39 years ago, was remanded to remain in custody until the next hearing.