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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 16:50 GMT
Court hears 'secret society' claims
Skye Road bridge
The case concerns non-payment of Skye Bridge tolls

A Skye Bridge protester is asking judges to reopen a case presided over by members of a "secret society".

Robbie the Pict believes there is an extensive legal membership of the Speculative Society (Spec), an elite debating club founded in 1764.

His legal challenge relates to his conviction at Dingwall Sheriff Court in November 1998 for failing to pay the Skye Bridge toll.

He wants his appeal, which questioned the legality of the Crown paperwork authorising the tolls, to be reheard before judges with no connections to the society.

It is important to stress that no conspiracy is suggested by the petitioner
Robbie the Pict

However, Advocate Depute Raymond Doherty accused him of presenting a "fanciful" case backed by little evidence.

Robbie's petition was originally brought in December at the justiciary appeal court.

However, it was continued because one of the judges, Lord Osborne, was a known member of the historic society.

Robbie read from a 44-page speech when the case called before Lords Gill, Kirkwood and Wheatley on Tuesday.

He claimed that the Speculative Society has Masonic connections.

He asked the three judges whether they were freemasons - a question they declined to answer.

Current members

"The petitioner will argue that it is not unreasonable to suggest that membership of a closed order with unknown preferences is a potential threat to the impartiality of a publicly salaried judge," he told the court.

He said that this applied "in particular when brother judges and other parties subject to judgement are members of the same sodality".

Robbie said that Sir Iain Noble, chairman of the Skye Bridge Company, and Sir Angus Grossart, financial adviser to bridge builders the Miller Group, were among the current members of Spec.

Supreme Courts sign
Three appeal judges are considering the petition
He said it was an exclusive body which "would allow the elite to self-perpetuate at the incidental expense of the non-elite, despite their merits".

He also referred to 21 court cases which he said had been presided over by judges who were Spec members.

"It is important to stress that no conspiracy is suggested by the petitioner," he said.

"However, the well, or even not so well informed observer, were he appraised of the above, could reasonably perceive the possibility.

"The well-informed amateur of justice is appalled to contemplate the possibility of corruption arising from... Spec presences."

I would submit that the concerns advanced by him are fanciful rather than reasonable
Raymond Doherty
Advocate Depute
He called for an independent public inquiry into the issue.

However, Mr Doherty accused Robbie of being himself, with strong feelings concerning the Skye bridge issue.

"I would submit that the concerns advanced by him are fanciful rather than reasonable," he said.

In its own literature the Speculative Society describes itself as a secret brotherhood bound by intangible ties of shared loyalty and common tradition.

The present membership said it was nothing more than a light hearted debating club.

The three judges will give their ruling at a later date.



MPs reject Skye toll claims
05 Dec 01 |  Scotland
Ruling forces Skye toll increase
12 Sep 00 |  Scotland

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