23/11/16 Disclosure Ruling Appeal Hearing.
Sheriff Appeal Court, Edinburgh
I am accused of vandalism. The charge states: that on 1st March 2016 at North Bridge Stores, Cunningsburgh, Shetland, I did without reasonable excuse, wilfully or recklessly destroy or damage the property belonging to another and did remove secured plyboard sheeting, cut a padbolt and remove a padlock and cause damage to same and to the building; contrary to the Criminal Law (Consolidation)(Scotland) Act 1995, Section 52(1) and (3). The phrase 'without reasonable excuse' is key to the charge and it is solely with that part of the charge that my appeal is concerned. If I had reasonable excuse, there was no crime.
The other key issue is that of ownership and possession. Ownership is a civil matter that is not competent for a criminal court to decide. Possession is merely a fact to be taken into consideration – a person is either in possession or is not. The merits of that possession depend on ownership and are not a matter for a criminal court.
This case and a previous one – the same charge of vandalism at the same locus in September 2015, are intimately linked. To avoid confusion I shall refer to the first case, case No LE15000550, as 'the 2015 case' and this present case as 'the 2016 case'. It is safe to say that the 2016 case would not have arisen were it not for the actions of the police and others in the 2015 case. What appeared to me as being either politically and/or personally motivated victimisation by the police, the prosecutor and the Sheriff left me with no option but to protect my rights in the way that I did in the 2016 case. The circumstances surrounding the 2015 case are what gave rise to the 2016 case and I will therefore go into some detail about the latter case. I will also have some words to say about the 2016 case to illustrate the fact that that nothing has changed.
The scale and pervasiveness of my allegations are alarming and might first be put down to paranoia, or some kind of conspiracy theory on my part, but I ask your Lordships to be patient while I show the evidence to dispel any notion of a theory.
In this 2016 case, if it can be shown that the police acted beyond their authority and then they and superior authorities attempted to conceal that fact – one might say that a crime was committed by the state or its agents - then my remedy was to re-take the property without recourse to the courts.
If one person is in possession of a property and another comes with a purported title deed, it is a civil matter. There is nothing to interest the police unless there is a consequent breach of the peace. If the police became involved in such a matter in the absence of a breach of the peace, they would be acting beyond their authority. In the absence of a breach of the peace, no crime would have been committed.
If they then raised a charge for which there was no evidence, it would be an abuse of their power.
If they then colluded amongst themselves and with other witnesses to cover their misdemeanors, they would compound their guilt.
If a senior procurator fiscal depute colluded with the police in an attempt to cover their misdemeanors, he would be aiding and abetting them in their crime.
If a sheriff presumed the authority to determine the question of ownership of a property by a person in a criminal case, his actions would be incompetent. If he did a number of things of which I accuse this sheriff, he would be in contempt of court and would be seen as hostile towards that person.
If all of this were repeated on a second occasion and both were seen to be done for the benefit of a third party, serious questions of corruption arise and that person would have good reason to suspect that the whole of the law enforcement and justice system were ranged against him for whatever reason.
What I have just outlined is what has happened in this case. None of the actions by those authorities was based upon a higher claim on the property or any authority in law. They were simply using what appears to be a casual abuse of power for political or personal motives, then making false accusations against me.
I have no hesitation in saying that, in the 2015 case, my action in connection with the property was political in nature. It is well known that I have been, for some time, seeking to discover how Scotland and the United Kingdom derive their authority in Shetland. Those activities have raised a good deal of antagonism in the courts, especially in Shetland, but it is important to note that, once the 2016 case started, I refrained from any political activity whatsoever and there is no political activity on my part that is material to this case. However, in both cases I have been faced with what can only be described as a politically or personally motivated hostile response from the entire law enforcement and justice system.
When the North Bridge Stores came up for auction, I saw an opportunity to further my political aims. I first of all went to the auction in Glasgow and put in the highest bid in order that nobody buying in good faith would get involved – I intended to dispute the bank's title, which of course would be a civil matter. I then wrote to the auctioneers on 10th September saying I was withdrawing from the sale and stating that The Sovereign Nation of Shetland had an undisputed claim to the allodial title of the whole of Shetland, including The North Bridge Stores. I do not intend to go any further into the details of that claim today since it has no bearing upon this case and would only be a distraction.
I draw your Lordship's attention to Witness Leask's witness statement, my document 14 …........... You will note in his first sentence that he was instructed by D.M. Hall Surveyors to secure the North Bridge Store sometime in September 2015. I presume this to have been a precautionary measure after my 10th September letter to the Auctioneers, but I don't know if he had been advised of my involvement. At that time there was an auction notice on the front of the building and he would have no reason to believe there was anything contentious about those instructions. It is my presumption that some kind of order was made in writing to DITT – they would be unlikely to carry out such work without an order. Apparently a new front door lock was installed and one to an inside office door, but the side door was not touched. He refers to damage on the frame of the side door, but photographs disclosed only show evidence of two previous break-ins on that frame.
On Wednesday 23rd September 2015, on the strength of my claim, I entered and took possession of the building, affixing a sign, this one................ to the inside of the window saying it was the property of The Sovereign Nation of Shetland. I entered through a side door which had no locks and was only held closed by a piece of wood leaning against the inside. I removed the auction sign from the front of the building and stored it inside. Here is a picture of it inside the building............. I then secured the building with a padbolt and padlock on the side door. In case your Lordships are not familiar with the term, this is a padbolt........ I also disabled the front door lock by inserting some screws into the lock from the inside. I then had the only key giving access to the building and it cannot be disputed that The Sovereign Nation of Shetland was in possession. If there were any dispute with the bank about ownership (and I was not aware of any then, or at any subsequent time), it should have been a matter for the civil courts – that was my intention.
During the next 2 days I made daily visits. By coincidence or otherwise, prosecution witness Michael Inkster, who is a local solicitor, was there on each occasion, taking photographs. I did not know it at the time, but he was the failed bidder at the auction. I have been instrumental in thwarting some of his land development aspirations in the past and he has good reason to want to see me taken down a peg or two.
I ask you Lordships to refer to page 1 of Document 4 in my bundle. You owill see that, On Thursday 24th September 2015, Witness Macleod, accompanied by a PC Smith who, for some reason is not a witness, inspected the property and found the building to be secure – which of course it was because I had secured it the previous day.
On the Friday, the 25th September, after making a visit to the shop at about 1pm, I posted letters to all those who might have an interest in what I was doing. They included Police Scotland, The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Shetland Islands Council, Registers of Scotland, The Prime Minister and The First Minister. The letters explained what I had done and invited anyone with a superior claim to come forward with it. Nobody did.
I also ran a public notice in the local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. Here it is …....... It received no response.
I don't think any reasonable person could find anything of a criminal nature in what I had done – I am not charged with stealing the building, everything at the locus was done in broad daylight in full public view and I had informed everyone who might have an interest. This was an overtly political action, but apparently the kind of political action from which, in the view of the police and others, I needed to be dissuaded.
I had an appointment with Chief Inspector Lindsay Tullock at the Lerwick police station at 3pm. that day about an unrelated matter. I was surprised and shocked to be told on my arrival that he had another urgent appointment and would not be able to see me, but that I was being detained on suspicion of vandalism at the shop. I have to say it felt like an ambush and in the light of subsequent events it is difficult not to see it as pre-planned.
It is the conduct of the police and other authorities on and after that day that appeared to me to be politically and personally motivated, which gave rise to the actions I later took and out of which the accusations against me in the case now before you arise.
After my last visit to the shop on Friday 25th September 2015, the police, together with Witness Leask, went to the property. The building was broken into by cutting my padbolt, the police entered and removed my notice, before the building was re-secured with a new padlock on my padbolt. My padlock was never seen again.
It is worth examining that event more closely. The auction notice had been removed, so there was no evidence of ownership or any claim by the bank. The only evidence of ownership at the locus was the notice in the window and it was clear that The Sovereign Nation of Shetland was in possession. The Royal Bank of Scotland purported ownership, but seems not to have been bothered enough to take a direct interest.
At this point I would like digress a little to show your Lordships a copy of Witness Barton's statement.......... Witness Barton is a bank manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland. He represents the bank – the other party if there were a civil action. He is presumably at the local branch since he was interviewed at Lerwick police station by Witness Innes. He says he is responsible for the part of the bank that deals with properties mortgaged to RBS which are to be sold by the bank under its mortgage conditions. One would expect that the principal party involved would have an immediate interest at the time of the incident, but I ask your Lordships to look at the date on which the interview was conducted – the 23rd of December 2915 two days before Christmas. Their being preoccupied with their political ends seems to have blinded the police to the omission of this vital witness until he was wheeled in 89 days after the event. Witness Barton says nothing about instructing D M Hall to break into the premises, but seems more concerned about recovering the cost of securing it. He also confirms the bank sold the property on 14th October 2015, meaning that at the time of the event they considered it their property.
Witness Barton would have been well aware of the case RBS v Stuart Hill, No. A4/11, which ran for over two years in the Court of Session and which was only stopped when Lord Pentland found in favour of the bank without hearing any evidence of his jurisdiction from the plaintiff. I doubt that RBS would welcome a re-run of that and would welcome any action by the police or anyone else that might thwart me.
So, back to what I shall refer to as the police break-in. We have the police and Witness Leask at the scene. The police officer was Witness Macleod. He does not say whether he was alone or accompanied by another officer, as would be normal practice in my observation. In either case he has no corroboration for his statement. Witness Inkster is not mentioned by either Macleod or Leask, neither does he say he was there in his statement, but he appears to have known what was happening, so the implication is that he was there. Witness Inkster has the most to gain from the whole situation, but he is always the shadowy figure in the background. I draw your Lordships' attention to Page 2 of Document 6 in my bundle............. where witness Inkster says “The following day DITT came to the property on the orders of the auctioneers to secure it.” What shouts out from all the prosecution witness statements is that that nobody wants to say how it was made insecure – who did the break-in? Such uniformity throughout the statements points to pervasive collusion.
There were two, three or four people present at the break-in. It seems to me likely there were four because the police appear to work in pairs for reasons of corroboration and Witness Inkster was not only aware of what was happening, but came into possession of the key when the property was re-secured. So, Witness Leask, Witness Macleod, possibly another police officer and possibly Witness Inkster were present at the break-in. It is even possible there were more, because it was reported to me that there was a police presence at the property for some time that day.
Of those four most likely, the police obviously had no personal claim and neither did Witness Leask. Although Witness Inkster wished to make a purchase and may well have been in negotiation with the bank, he had no legal standing at the time. I ask your Lordships to view my document 6a, which is a copy of a Registers of Scotland title deed for the property I obtained on 13th October 2015 – eighteen days after the event............ You will see the Proprietors are Colin Arthur Sinclair Leask and his spouse Jane Leask. Although the name is the same, there is no material connection between these Leasks and Witness Leask as far as I am aware.
Bearing in mind the reaction of the police to my activity, whoever cut the padbolt would be committing a criminal offence unless they themselves had a claim on the property. Of the four, Witness Leask is the most likely to actually have cut the padbolt. He had no claim. His employers, DITT, had no claim and could not authorise his action. I do not know the detail of any contract between the bank and D.M. Hall, but in my view, although they might authorise securing a building, as Witness Barton is careful to say, it would be most unlikely for any bank employee to authorise a break-in and therefore unlikely for the bank to authorise D.M. Hall on their behalf. A bank's solicitors would be well aware of the risks of such an action. I again refer your Lordships to page 2 of Witness Macleod's statement, Document 4 in my bundle. The second sentence says “it was decided by the witness King (who I believe is employed by DM Hall) to have the property – and I quote 'secured again' unquote by the witness Leask”. Once again, no mention of the sensitive subject of how it was made insecure. However, it is inconceivable that witness Leask would cut the padbolt on his own initiative, or even on the instructions of his employer, unless the police were there.
Nobody engaged in the action had any authority to break the padbolt, or to purport to give authority to do so. It must have been clear to everyone involved that there was some kind of dispute as to ownership, but apparently there was a collective, but unjustified certainty that I and The Sovereign Nation of Shetland were in the wrong. That may or may not have been correct, but until it was settled in a civil court, none of those involved had the right to break, or authorise the breaking of the padbolt and remove the notice. Both were crimes.
The police involvement is more serious still because their action in detaining me prevented my being in a position to protect the property. My mere presence would have prevented the action taking place.
The fact that I had a pre-planned appointment at the police station must have seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. That there was no evidence of any criminality did not seem to deter them from pursuing what proved to be a trumped up charge. There was no warrant to authorise the break-in and the police had no business interfering in what was a civil matter. My notice clearly showed that The Sovereign Nation of Shetland claimed ownership and was manifestly in possession – it was not up to the police to judge the merits or otherwise of that claim.
I draw your Lordships' attention to the police interview starting at the bottom of page 2 of document 4 in my bundle................. I was astounded when the notice was shown to me at the police interview. I was also shown a copy of the letter I had written to the auctioneers. I questioned the relevance of these documents to the offence of which I was suspected – 9 of the 17 questions put to me were concerned with the political aspects of the incident and they conflate this with any criminality they should be concerned with. During the interview I was at pains to point out that the matter was nothing to do with the police – any dispute would be a civil matter between The Sovereign Nation of Shetland and the bank.
After the break-in the key to the new padlock found its way into the hands of Witness Inkster, who had no legal standing at that time, but who stood to gain massively by this police activity. He was observed going in and out via the side door in the days after the break-in. Some days later a plywood sheet was fixed to the outside of the door, preventing open access to the padbolt. My information is that this was on the instructions of the bank, whose position would be compromised if anyone other than themselves had access. From their perspective, this would include both me and Witness Inkster.
In any normal circumstances, if the police were to be faced with a situation where one person is in possession of a property and another has a piece of paper purporting to be a title deed, there is nothing to interest them in the absence of any breach of the peace. The only difference here is the presence in the mix of the names 'The Sovereign Nation of Shetland' and 'Stuart Hill', neither of which is material to the issue, but which appear to inflame passions in some minds. If the police chose to act beyond their authority in my case it would be clear proof of political or personal motivation.
The police had no powers of entry. I quote from the Scottish Citizen's Advice Bureau website:
“In general the police do not have the right to enter a person’s house or other private premises without their permission. However, they can enter without a warrant:-
when in close pursuit of someone the police believe has committed, or attempted to commit, a serious crime; or
to quell a disturbance; or
if they hear cries for help or of distress; or
to enforce an arrest warrant.” unquote
None of those conditions apply here.
I now draw your Lordships' attention to the documents marked 5 in my bundle................. After being released on an undertaking to appear in court, I wrote several letters to the Chief Inspector protesting at my treatment and at the police getting involved in a civil matter, but received no reply except to say that the matter was in the hands of the procurator fiscal. That correspondence is summarised in the last letter .............................. Those letters were copied to the senior procurator fiscal depute, but he also apparently ignored them and decided to proceed with the case. He evidently thought that slapping me down was in the public interest. Rather than my reading it, I would ask your Lordships to read my document number 1, the letter to the procurator fiscal depute to which that correspondence was attached.
Before the first hearing on 14th October I served a Notice of Lack of Jurisdiction on the court. At the hearing I challenged the jurisdiction of the court, but the sheriff brushed the challenge aside and proceeded with the case. I contend that the onus was on the prosecution to show proof of the court's jurisdiction – it was not up to the sheriff to arbitrarily decide the matter before hearing such proof. I made no plea, but the sheriff entered a plea of not guilty and I was released on bail with the next hearing scheduled for 20th January 2016.
Bail conditions included:
that I must not challenge the jurisdiction of the court, which I believe to be a fundamental right,
that I must not contact the court or the procurator fiscal's office, which obstructs my access to justice
In the 2016 case, bail conditions were even stricter and included a requirement not to approach the property, which can only mean that Sheriff Mann had already made a determination about ownership, which he was not competent to do.
These extraordinary bail conditions indicate what I can only describe as endemic and uncritical political bias. As soon as the words 'Sovereign Nation of Shetland' or Stuart Hill' are mentioned, there is an immediate presumption of some kind of wrong doing – I draw your Lordships' attention to paragraph 6 of Sheriff Mann's report to illustrate this. Without apparently giving it any thought, he describes my actions in the 2016 case as a 'wrong'.
It took an inordinate amount of time for the prosecution to produce the disclosures. I actually received them on the 8th January – 86 days after the not guilty plea and only 12 days before the hearing. After handing them to me, the senior procurator fiscal depute, Mr. Mackenzie, suggested that if I made a contribution of about £50 to charity, he would drop the case. I don't know if this could best be described as a bribe or a bluff, but it certainly felt unsavoury. In any case, I declined his offer. Detailed examination of the witness statements later showed possible reasons why the evidence had taken so long to compile and why he may have wanted to quietly drop the case.
The police and civil witness statements reveal evidence of collusion among police officers and between officers and other witnesses. They show tampering with statements and apparent willingness to pervert the course of justice. Police statements are made without corroboration. Any description of the break-in of the premises by, or with the authority of the police, is studiously avoided, but it cannot be denied that it took place. I draw your Lordships' attention to page 2 of my document 4............... It is admitted by the police that they entered the premises and removed the notice. It must be transparently clear that they acted beyond their authority. It must also be clear that a crime was committed of which they have knowledge, but which they are concealing.
I draw your Lordships' attention to a number of instances which support these allegations:
1. That the property was broken into is evidenced by the fact that I had the only key giving access, by the fact that the notice I had affixed to the inside of the window had been removed and was presented to me at the police interview and by the fact that the padbolt I had installed had been cut to remove my padlock.
2. The date, time and place of witness Inkster's statement (document 6 in my bundle) …........... have been blanked out and a new date and time inserted. No place is given. The new date is 8th November 2015 at 5pm. This is on a Sunday and is 44 days after the incident. We are told that police resources in Shetland are stretched, so to read that an officer can be made available at 5pm on a Sunday at some unspecified location either defies belief, or shows an extraordinarily cosy relationship between the police and this witness. Although he apparently made a statement on 24th September (I draw your Lordships' attention to the top of page 2 of Witness Macleod's statement, document 4 in my bundle) …..........., I can only put this alteration down to the fact that his statement includes the assertion that he is now the 'official owner' of the Northbridge Stores, which would not have been true at the time of the incident. I refer your Lordships to page 2 of Witness Inkster's statement, document 6 in my bundle.................. . Witness Inkster had a great deal to gain by the police activity.
3. Also included in the disclosures is the Registers of Scotland title deed (and I draw your Lordships' attention to the Proprietorship Section on page 2 of document 7) I presume this document to have been intended to suggest some kind of legitimacy to witness Inkster's claim of ownership. However, it shows that he and his wife only gained entry to the property on 14th October – three weeks after the incident, so, had the statement been dated as having been taken at the time of the incident, which would be only natural and which appears to have been the likely original date, it would not be true. The inclusion of this document is intended to deceive. Witness Inkster had no standing in the matter on 23rd September. I believe the witness statement to have been altered to cover this fact and to assist his fraudulent claim. If I am correct, and I will show further evidence to support this supposition, it shows an unhealthily intimate relationship between this solicitor and members of the police force.
4. Witness Inkster was also observed going in and out through the side door in the days after the police break-in, which can only mean that he had been given the key to the new padlock. He was a third party with no legal standing in the matter, so for him to be given the key was a further indication of how close was the relationship between him and the police officers involved.
5. The two police statements were made a full thirty-nine days after the event and within two hours of each other. Far from their statements being independent records of their involvement in the incident, this, together with the 'operational statement', which is referred to as the source of Witness Innes' information, shows a high level of institutionalised collusion. Witness Macleod shows the source for his statement as 'other' – not his notebook or even the 'operational statement', which is apparently used to make sure all officers stick to the same story. Are we to assume he was making it up? I draw you Lordships' attention to the dates, times and sources on documents 4 and 8 in my bundle, which I have highlighted in pink.................. A similar level of collusion is shown by the dates and times on police witness statements in the 2016 case, which I will come to shortly.
6. I draw you Lordships' attention to documents 4 and 6 in my bundle and highlighted orange................ Both Witness Inkster and police Witness Macleod claim to have been at the premises at the same time on the morning of 24th September. Witness Inkster says he observed me up a ladder inspecting the loft, although by what authority he had entered the building unannounced and uninvited is anybody's guess. Police witness Macleod claims he was inspecting the premises and found them to be secure. Had that been the case, he could not have failed to see my car outside, or notice that the door was open and that Witness Inkster and I were inside.
7. There is no corroboration of Witness Macleod's statement. For some reason, the evidence of the officer he was paired with that day is not seen to be important. Without it, he has no corroboration.
8. Both Witness Leask and Witness Macleod claim they were at the premises at 11am on the 25th September and the the building was, I quote, 're-secured'. I draw you Lordships' attention to page 2 of document 4 and to document 6 in my bundle, where I have highlighted in orange.................. As I said, they are careful not to say how it was made insecure after police witness Macleod had found it secure the previous day. However, my records show that I was in the building at 1 pm., before my visit to Chief Inspector Tulloch at 3. That would obviously have been impossible had the building been, quote 're-secured' at 11 am.
9. The nail in the coffin is the fact that the Crown deserted the case at the 5th February 2016 hearing, showing beyond doubt that this complex web of deceptive evidence could not stand up in court.
Included among the photographs disclosed are ones taken by Witness Inkster showing me in the open doorway, others showing me going about my business and another showing the notice in the window. There is a copy of my cheque and a copy of my letter to the auctioneers – all of which show the political nature of my activity. It is hardly the action of a criminal to advertise his identity, to secure the premises and then to openly re-enter the locus with his own key after his criminal activity. Anyone with any sense should have been able to see the charge could not be made to stick, but the prosecution decided to proceed anyway, only deserting the case after I had spent two weeks in Peterhead jail.
It may be presumptuous of me, but it seems that, having seen my letter of 11 January 2015, the prosecution realised that I had seen through the deception and they knew the case would fail. The senior procurator fiscal depute may well have intended to desert the case at the 20th January hearing - I don't know, but the way that case was handled by the sheriff, as I will describe, did not give them that option and resulted in my spending two weeks in Peterhead