Skye bridge protestors celebrated today as Sheriff James Fraser declared that the toll order was flawed, as it does not specify exactly WHO should pay the toll, the driver, the passengers, or even thr vehicle owners.
He then went on to throw out charges against two of the latest non-payers.
The Sheriffs decision opens the way for 370 existing or pending cases to be dropped and for people who have previous convictions to have theirs quashed.
The defence, Edinburgh Advocate Mr Michael Upton, argued that the Skye Bridge Toll order failed to specify any individual liable to pay, only a vehicle. He said that since a vehicle can be connected to a variety of people (driver, passenger, owner, keeper, etc.) that it was legally unsound to prosecute only the driver.
The Sheriff said "In my view, the defence argument is sound. Legislation, and more particularly and more strictly when the provisions are penal, should say what it means and mean what it says. Legislation must be clear and its provisions must be certain. To read or imply provisions makes the legislation less than certain, and at best no more than likely."
The Procurator Fiscal, of course, immediately appealed. If the High Court upholds the Sherrif's ruling, the Scottish Secretary would have to amend the Toll Order and bring it up before Parliament to make it clear who must pay the tolls.
Robbie the Pict, head of SKAT's Legal Committee said "I would hope that Skye Bridge Ltd. has the commonsense to remove the toll barriers until it gets its paperwork in order."
There is little chance of that, however. A spokesman for Skye Bridge Ltd. said the company would wait on official confirmation of the Sherrif's ruling from the Secretay of State. She said "In order to fulfil its contractual obligations to collect the toll, we will now seek to rely on our discretionary powers not to permit persons refusing to pay the toll, passage through the barrier."
What SKAT recommend to their members and supporters to do now is, when they refuse to pay if they are not let through the barrier, to stay at the barrier. If the Bridge company refuse to call the Police, then they should attempt to call the Police themselves and complain that they are being obstructed by the Bridge company and that you cannot proceed without causing criminal damage to the barrier.
Copyright © Ray Shields, 1997.
Most recent revision, 10 July 1997.