Press Release 9 December 1997

SKAT Offer to Meet UN Delegation Concerning the Scottish Legal System

SKAT has offered to share their experiences of the Scottish legal system with the UN delegation which has been in Scotland over the past few days to assess arrangements for any trial of the Libyan suspects accused of the Lockerbie bombing. While the UN delegation was particularly interested in Dumfries Sheriff Court where the suspects would make their first appearance were they to be tried in Scotland, SKAT campaigners’ experiences are mainly of the Sheriff Court in Dingwall. Nevertheless SKAT believe that the details of the way anti-toll protesters have been treated would provide the delegation with a fuller appreciation of the legal system here.

Unfortunately for those keen to convince the world of the Scottish Legal system’s essential fairness and impartiality, the delegation would hear of a group whose respect for the system has been completely undermined by the manner in which the legal process has been distorted and abused in order to protect the interests of a private company. They would hear, for example, about the blanket refusal of legal aid for defendants; of the necessity for the bulk of protesters to travel for up to 150 miles past a perfectly good sheriff court in order to answer charges in Dingwall; of defendants being required to make the three hundred mile round trip to court on four or five occasions before having an opportunity to defend themselves; of protesters being convicted by legislation which "doesn’t say what it means"; of the continuing failure of the Crown to produce proof positive that those who collect tolls are empowered to do so; and of convictions on the basis of a spurious document, the author of which concedes is marginal and irrelevant to the question of empowerment to collect tolls. Add to this the continued use of officers of the Northern Constabulary as a form of security firm for the private company which collects tolls and the whole legal process is seen in a very unfavourable light.

Since SKAT are awaiting the pronouncement on Wednesday by the High Court on the latest challenge to the legality of toll collecting on the Skye bridge, we should be delighted to meet the UN delegation any time from Thursday onwards.


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Copyright Ray Shields, 2001.

Most recent revision, 03 December 2001