Flawed Legislation Papered Over

Hot on the heels of their embarrassment over the abuse of Intermediate Diets in Sheriff and District Courts, the Scottish Office and the Crown are, once again, conniving together to paper over the cracks in yet another example of bad legislation. This accusation comes in the wake of last week’s Parliamentary answer which confirms that the Crown has dropped charges in 177 cases of refusing to pay the tolls on the Skye Bridge. Far from being a generous and conciliatory gesture on behalf of the Crown to the people of Skye, this is simply a move to deflect attention from the flawed legislation which purports to empower the Bank of America and their associates Miller to collect scandalously high tolls on the Skye bridge. The Crown and the Scottish Office are only too aware that with every case of non-payment coming before the courts, the inadequacy of the legislation is further exposed. Rather than keep trying to defend the indefensible in courts the Crown has, by dropping the remaining charges, simply climbed down.

Drew Millar, convener of SKAT is not impressed by this latest move. "Would you reasonably expect that a system which has vexatiously litigated against those protesting about the bridge tolls to be capable of so magnanimous a concession to protesters? If their manoeuvering over the issue weren’t so pathetic it would be laughable. No, they know that they cannot sustain too many more convictions under the legislation which they claim empowers whoever is collecting tolls at the Skye Bridge to do so."

Particular vulnerable in the attempt to make prosecutions stick is the infamous "Production 16". This was produced in Dingwall Sheriff Court as evidence of the consent of the Secretary of State to Miller Civil Engineering to perform the empowered function of toll collection. But subsequent scrutiny of the document reveals that it is not what the prosecution claim it to be. "In fact the author of the document known as Production 16 has blown that particular assertion out of the water." according to Drew Millar, "But we have other opportunities to expose the weaknesses in the ‘evidence’ produced by the prosecution and by dropping these charges the Crown simply increases our resolve in this regard."

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Copyright Ray Shields, 1998.

Most recent revision, 18 May 1998