Monday 24th May 2004
To: Minister of Justice, Mrs Cathy Jamieson.MSP
Dear Mrs Jamieson, Re: Skye high tolls – Rule of law.
As you are no doubt aware, our small isolated community had inflicted on them, by a Tory Westminster Government, the highest road toll in Europe in October 1995.
Since that time our community have struggled to escape from these shackles, and their struggle has been noted by the media throughout the world.
In their determination to prevent resistance by the local community the British Government passed legislation in 1992 (before the bridge was built) which, made it a criminal offence to refuse to pay the full toll demanded. What was a civil matter was turned into a criminal matter in order to help the private company, at the expense of the civil rights of the local community.
Our stubborn resistance to this toll, and to the draconian legislation supporting it, has placed us in direct conflict with the criminal law, and has made many of us convicted criminals and led to some of us being arrested several times, held overnight in police cells, and in my own case in prison for 11 days.
This legislation, used only for the Skye Bridge tolls, did not intimidate us as intended, and indeed is no longer being applied as the police are being told not to use it.
What is now happening is a further abuse of the rule of law. Police officers are being told to arrest toll protestors not for refusing to pay the toll, but for obstruction or some other traffic offence, offences indeed which are not caused by the community, but by the company putting a barrier across the road.
Our organisation is a non violent protest movement; we are prepared to challenge unjust law basically because we believe in democracy and the rule of law.
As they lost the economic argument over the tolls, so the Government have lost the legal argument and are no longer prepared to use the legislation they prepared for this purpose. They are however attempting to support the company by asking the police to use inappropriate legislation to intimidate objectors to the tolls.
We will not be intimidated, and we insist on the rule of law being properly and unbiasedly applied.
We are now intent on challenging the company in another aspect of its operation. The company are in our view not applying the date-stamp system on the tickets in a valid and entirely legal way. We intend to challenge that.
The company could respond to our challenge in a proper legal way by taking civil action against us if they feel that our use of the tickets is invalid. This is, and should be a matter for the civil courts, and not one for the police, and the police acknowledge this.
The company however will not respond by taking civil action against us, no doubt they know, as we do that such an action would be unsuccessful, so how will the company respond ?
Experience tells us that the company will attempt to deal with this by refusing to deal with the ticket challenge, and just refusing to allow us to pass. This in turn will cause an obstruction on the road, they will then use this obstruction as a reason why the police should remove us, or charge us and arrest us.
In this way they will not have to present a case against us in the civil court, and the legality of this particular aspect of their scheme will not be challenged in court.
We are not prepared to allow this company to blackmail our community, and the police, in this way.
We are determined to challenge this aspect of their operation, and to have it heard in a civil court. We will therefore be involved in further confrontations at the toll barriers in order to have this issue dealt with.
If you allow this company to attempt to avoid its civil law responsibilities, and use the police to remove us so that the company can evade such responsibilities then we will once again face the police cells and the criminal courts. This time we will be doing it clearly in defence of the rule of law.
Le deagh dhùrachd,
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 2004.
Most recent revision, 25 May 2004