Today, in Dingwall Sherrif Court, 187 people appeared in front of the Sherrif on charges of non payment of tolls on the privately owned/run bridge to the Isle of Skye.
Of these, 11 pleaded guilty, 9 entered not guilty pleas and 8 cases were continued without plea. Warrants were issued for the arrest of 3 accused to failed to appear before the court.
They were supported by a large number of protestors who came along to support them, complete with pipers. The protesters staged another non payment demonstration at the bridge early on the Friday morning, before racing through blizzards to Dingwall fort the court case.
The QC who represents 140 of the 187 people attending today issued a motion questioning the legality of the charges. The Sherrif has agreed to look into the legality of the collection of the tolls at a later hearing due sometime in March.
SKAT campaigners are pleased that their cases have finally got to Court, there has been a delay of nearly four months since the first case of non payment was reported to the Procurator Fiscal.
As the first case was called, in alphabetical order, Andy Anderson was charged with refusing, without reasonable excuse, to pay the toll of GBP4.30 which he was liable to pay "by virtue of a toll order" contrary to the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, Section 38 (1).
As each case was called, the QC asked the Sherrif to excuse some of the accused from attending in person in March. Some were GPs and schoolteachers and would find it difficult to take time off work. One was currently undertaking missionary work in Africa!
One accused, who was excused was Dan Corrigal who had amassed a number of promissory notes for the tolls on the bridge. Mr Murray said " it is my understanding that the Skye Bridge Company have refused to allow Mr Corrigal passage across the bridge, and the Secretary of State has seen fit to remove the ferries to the island. ".
Those accused who made no plea are to appear in court again on the 29th February; not guilty pleas were fixed for 17th April, with trial on 13th May. Those who plead guilty will be sentenced later.
One of the accused who failed to appear was Robbie the Pict. An arrest warrant was issued, and he was arrested the following morning in Portree and held in custody until Monday when he appeared in front of the Sherrif. He argued that the summons had been sent to Brian David Robertson, a name he said he had stopped using 11 years ago. Asked if he would accept "Brian David Robertson, alias Robbie the Pict", he refused as he said that implied he was seeking to deceive people.
At the suggestion of Honorary Sherrif Burns, he agreed that he was once Brian David Robertson, now known as Robbie the Pict, and he was then served with a complaint against him for allegedly refusing on eight occasions to pay the toll. His case was continued without plea until 29th February.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1996.
Most recent revision, 15 February 1996.