Police must have been expecting a riotous situation at today's protest on the Skye Bridge. Including the local Inspector and Sargent, were another 6 Officers AND a dog unit (K9 unit to our American friends!)
SKAT members had previously sent letters to the Chief Constable informing him that they were going to turn up today and avoid paying the toll, thereby breaking the New Roads and Streetworks Act, and requested - no, demanded - that they be charged (see here for a copy of the letter).
Despite the presence of 8 police officers and their dog, AND the plea by the protestors to be charged, NO-ONE was charged with any offence! Here on the Isle of Skye, the Police have been cutting back the amount of officers available, leaving no coverage in Sleat at the south end of the Island. At the recent Gaelic Mod in Portree on Skye, there were almost as many officers on duty for several THOUSAND people as there was on the Skye Bridge for just under 20 cars of bridge protestors.
The Mod Committee had to pay for extra police coverage, football clubs have to pay the police for coverage, why does the Skye Bridge company (a PRIVATE company) get such excessive, unjustified police presence for free - and at the end of it all they won't even charge anyone??
It may sound strange that people WANT to be charged. However, SKAT protesters want to be charged for avoiding the toll under the above Act because they believe that if they go to Court, they will be found Not Guilty and the whole toll regime will be shown to be illegal.
People who have been charged in the past with avoiding the toll have had to wait months and months to go to Court, when they are found guilty and they appeal, the Procurator Fiscal (Scottish version of the U.S. District Attorney or English D.P.P.) deserts the charge as he does not want it to go to an Appeal Court (see Andy Anderson's story in the new Novembers SKAT Newsletter).
The police officers are under instruction from the Chief Constable, who is under instruction from the Procurator Fiscal not to charge people with avoiding the toll as it is not in the public interest to prosecute us. It makes it really difficult to protest against the toll when they won't charge us! If we step up the campaign and become more forceful, we would only succeed in being charged with obstruction or criminal damage, which we obviously will not be doing.
SKAT intend to write to members of the Police Committee to complain about police resources wasted on protests that they refuse to charge people who ADMIT they are breaking the law, and then turn round and say there are not enough officers to deal with drunk and disorderliness in Kyleakin at a weekend. Surely there is someone in the Police Authority that we can complain to about these people deliberately ignoring law-breaking? Write and tell us if you know.
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1998.
Most recent revision, 16 December 1999