Toll Evidence was Fabricated
by David Ross, Highland Correspondent
THE Scottish Office fraudulently fabricated evidence which was then used in the criminal conviction of Skye bridge campaigners, judges were told yesterday.
It was done to hide the fact the proper legal procedures had not been followed; that the document which was supposed to assign the Secretary of State's right to collect tolls was not signed, dated or published and was therefore a worthless piece of paper; that the necessary statutory instruments were not laid before Parliament or published as they should have been.
The four judges in the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh were also told the public was not informed of the true identity of the company to which they would be paying their tolls.
Four years after the bridge opened, four campaigners have spent the past three days appealing against their convictions for refusing to pay the bridge tolls without reasonable excuse. They insist they had a reasonable excuse, that the toll regime was not properly established in law.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Lords Sutherland, Marnoch, and Cowie heard the appeals of Portree councillor Drew Millar, retired civil engineer Alex Smith and local teacher Andrew McMorrine. Yesterday, it was the turn of Robbie the Pict. Robbie, who was representing himself, told the court that, for four years, the campaigners had simply tried to expose the legal flaws in the tolls regime.
They had done this responsibly: "In the past four years, there has not even been a breach of the peace."
He said the fabricated evidence was contained in Crown Production 16, which had been produced at Dingwall Sheriff Court in November 1997 to prove the company collecting the tolls, Miller Civil Engineering, had the written legal consent of the Secretary of State.
He argued that such Scottish Office failures and cover-ups had given all the campaigners found guilty, a reasonable excuse.
Until this week, the Scottish Office and the Crown have continued to insist Crown Production 16 was written consent. However, yesterday saw the first public change of tack. Advocate-depute Ruth Anderson QC said Crown Production 16 had been an essential element in a package of contracts and documents which covered the whole bridge project.
She said: "My submission is that on December 16, 1991, everybody including the Secretary of State, knew what was contained in each and every element of the package."
Their Lordships will rule on the appeals at a later date.
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1999.
Most recent revision, 05 December 1999