Police Handcuff Disabled Man

A disabled driver was handcuffed to the wheel of his car by Police when he refused to pay a toll at the Skye Bridge last Saturday.

Robert Stewart’s vehicle is exempt from excise duty because of his disability and, under Section 36 of the New Streets & Roads Works Act, is also exempt from having to pay the toll on the bridge. When he reached the booth, he handed over a notice advising the man he was committing an offence by asking him to pay the toll.

Mr Stewart said he told the man that under Section 36 (2) (d) of the New Streets and Roads Works Act 1991 he was exempt from paying the toll charges. He did not specifically say that he was exempt because he was disabled. "But the point is they didn’t understand the terms of the act which I handed over to them. I would have been happy to present my exemption certificate if I had been asked for it. But I wasn’t asked for it."

Mr Stewart said the bridge staff said they were not going to argue with him and directed him to wait in the wideload lane for the police. "After about an hour, two officers from Portree arrived and I told them that I wished to report a criminal offence taking place. The man in the toll booth was stopping me from continuing my journey", Mr Stewart said.

"They told me that they had instructions from the procurator fiscal not to take complaints about the toll booth and advised me to see a solicitor. I replied that this was not a civil matter but a criminal matter and that it was his legal obligation to investigate."

Mr Stewart said the constable ignored his reply and told him that if he refused to pay he would be charged with obstruction. "I told the officer that I was not refusing to pay as under the terms of the Act I am not obliged to pay." He said he was ignored again and told he was being booked for obstruction. At this point, one of the officers pulled open the door, placed handcuffs on my wrists and said I was under arrest and demanded I get out of my car. I started to protest that I was unable to do so but he was not listening and he started to manhandle me out of the vehicle.

Mr Stewart said at that point the other policeman realised he was disabled and intervened.

"I was then lifted back into my seat and the handcuffs were unlocked." Mr Stewart said the policeman who had handcuffed him demanded to know why he had not told him he was disabled. "I explained that I told the man in the toll-booth several times under the terms of the act I was not obliged to pay the toll but nobody would listen to me."

Mr Stewart said he was chastised for wasting police time, the barrier was lifted and he proceeded across to Skye. "I will be sending a letter of complaint to the local inspector and the Chief Constable", Mr Stewart said. A police spokesman at Portree said that there was an incident at the Skye Bridge on Saturday but did not wish to comment further.

Yet again, this shows the selective law keeping being done by the Northern Constabulary. They have been ordered not to listen to ANY protests or complaints from demonstrators. The Act makes it a criminal offence to refuse or avoid the toll, but it is also a criminal offence to collect a toll without authority. We are told that ignorance of the law is no excuse, why did the toll operator stop Mr. Stewart from proceeding, did he not know that law which governed the bridge he was collecting the toll on?

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1997.

Most recent revision, 13 March 1998