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Hill out of jail

Stuart Hill

SELF-styled Shetland independence campaigner Stuart Hill was released from detention by Lerwick Sheriff Court on Friday after serving 16 days behind bars.

The 73 year old English man was locked up on 20 January for contempt of court after he refused to step into the dock to face a charge of vandalism, a charge he denied.

On Friday the Crown dropped the original charge, which was based on actions Hill took at the North Bridge Stores in Cunningsburgh last year.

Instead Sheriff Philip Mann sentenced Hill to 28 days in jail for contempt, backdated to 20 January.

Having served more than half his prison term he was eligible for release.

This is the second time Hill has spent time in prison for refusing to recognise the authority of the court in Shetland, having spent 12 days inside four years ago.

On that occasion he had refused to complete an unpaid work order for driving a vehicle through Lerwick, when it was registered not in the UK, but with a small uninhabited island off Shetland he calls the independent state of Forvik.

Speaking after the hearing on Friday from his home at Bard View, Ocraquoy, Cunningsburgh, Hill said he was disappointed the original case had been dropped by the procurator fiscal.

He explained the unusual circumstances surrounding the charge against him as being part of his campaign to be taken to court where he could challenge its jurisdiction in Shetland, which he believes is not legally part of Scotland or the UK.

Last year Hill had travelled to Glasgow to attend an auction for the North Bridge Stores, a community shop that closed three years ago due to declining trade.

Having put in the highest offer he then withdrew his bid in an attempt to force the Royal Bank of Scotland, who were selling the store, to take him to court in a civil action.

“If they had taken me to court my first question would have been how does this court have jurisdiction,” he said.

Instead he was charged with willfully and recklessly destroying or damaging property at the empty shop on 23 September.

On that occasion Sheriff Mann lost patience with Hill when he refused to stand in the dock to answer the charge and he was remanded in custody for contempt.

After spending two weeks in Peterhead jail, which he described as a better experience than Craiginches in Aberdeen where he stayed in 2012, he applied for bail, so his case was brought forward from 18 February.

Afterwards he said: “I have to say I was looking forward to the trial and I am more than a bit disappointed that the procurator fiscal decided not to go ahead.”

He added that the worst part of the experience was being told by the sheriff he was a free man while handcuffed in the dock, and then being taken to the cells where he had to wait for two hours while the paperwork was completed before he could be released.