SKAT arre over the moon at the prospect of a giant piece of judicial skulduggery being the final nail in the coffin of the hated toll regime.
Reacting to news that the dual role played by the Lord Justice Rodger, was being viewed very critically in legal and political circles last night. SKAT convener, Drew Millar, said, "At long last all those people and groups who've supported us as individuals, and as occasion demanded in the past three and a half years, are now coming together as one to say, "This time it certainly is for real."
The group has been viewing with increasing amazement and barely concealed delight the public condemnation of the dramatic allegations that Lord Rodger broke all the rules by allowing himself to sit on the bench on three SKAT High Court Appeals when his previous office had, in October and November 1995, while he was Lord Advocate, been involved in initiating the prosecutions against the tolls non-payers. In one of these cases, Portree Primary School janitor, Hugh MacIntyre, travelled all the way from his home in Portree to Edinburgh on 17th December 1998, was represented in Court by a QC, but was told by Lord Justice Rodger, the Presiding Judge, that he wasn't going to hear any evidence in the Appeal and immediately threw it out of Court.
Experienced observers said last night that the treatment of Mr MacIntyre's case could shake the reputation of the Scottish Judicial system. "What makes this case so absolutely incredible", said Mr Millar, "is that Hugh MacIntyre was one of the first people charged on the very first night of tolling on the Bridge. At that time Lord Rodger of Earlsferry was the man ultimately responsible for prosecutions in Scotland. We waited some months, challenging the Fiscal in Dingwall to tell us when we would get our day in Court, and the only response we got was that Edinburgh had yet to decide. Well, Hugh was taken to Court, found guilty, appealed and found himself in the Appeal Court in Edinburgh. And who should be sitting there in front of him heading the panel of three judges? None other than Scotland's Premier Judge, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry"
A leading Constitutional expert Rob Dunbar of Glasgow University's Law faculty said last night that the case was very similar to a Belgian case which the European Court of Human Rights had recently decided against the judicial system in that country as being prejudicial to the rights and liberties of citizens. SKAT say that it was no surprise to them that the Appeal was rejected as were two others heard by Lord Rodgers.
Skye's MP, Charles Kennedy, announcing that he is to table Commons' questions about the possibility of Lord Rodger being in a conflict of interest position, said, "Clearly, there is a significant and justifiable public interest here following Lord Hoffman's position in the General Pinochet case in England". Mr Kennedy said that it was central to the entire case against Skye Bridge Tolls protesters that any directions given to the Procurator Fiscal's office in Dingwall be made public. For SKAT, Mr Millar said, "To clear this foul-smelling air, that's the very least we need, but until they tell us the truth we'll keep pushing because we know the position".
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Copyright © Ray Shields, 1999.
Most recent revision, 03 February 1999