SELF-STYLED independence campaigner Stuart Hill has been fined after being found guilty of vandalising the disused North Bridge Stores in Cunningsburgh last year.
The pensioner, of Bard View, Orcaquoy, Cunningsburgh, filmed himself carrying out the offence on 1 March as he undertook what he claimed was the lawful repossession of the property.
However, sheriff Philip Mann ruled after a trial at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday that the 74 year old did not own the building and therefore had committed an act of vandalism.
Hill, who does not believe Shetland falls under UK law, was initially accused of removing a secured plyboard sheeting, cutting a padbolt, removing a padlock and causing damage to the building.
However, procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie later amended the charge to include drilling a hole into an external wall, attempting to set a Yale lock and attaching a flag pole to the outside of the building.
The court heard evidence from a number of police officers who attended the North Bridge Stores on 1 March.
They were alerted when Hill phoned the police to warn them that he was carrying out “a repossession”, as he was worried a breach of the peace may take place at the hands of people who said they owned the building.
Upon attending the scene, officers saw a cordon had been placed around the property, with signs placed on windows and doors saying it was owned again by the Sovereign Nation of Shetland following a “fraudulent” dispossession in September 2015, while a flag pole had also been erected.
Officers found a camera inside the property and they recovered four videos from the device, which were played in court. They showed Hill filming himself setting up the taped cordon, removing a wooden door covering and changing locks.
A man was then removed from watching the trial after attempting to disseminate documents on the room’s benches before vocally questioning the authority and jurisdiction of the court.
Local man Michael Inkster, a solicitor and estate agent, confirmed to the court that he had a land certificate for the property after purchasing it in October 2015 from an auction in Glasgow.
Representing himself, Hill said in evidence that he was “going about the business of repossessing the shop in a careful and reasoned way”.
Mackenzie retorted by saying it was all a “stunt” for Hill to “attract publicity for himself” – something the 74 year old denied.
The campaigner, who described himself as the first minister of the Sovereign Nation of Shetland, said he had put in the highest offer for the North Bridge Stores to the Royal Bank of Scotland – which was selling the store – before withdrawing with the aim of seeing if the bank had a title for the property by forcing civil legal action.
“Mr Hill can protest all he likes, but when the protest impinges on somebody else, then that certainly oversteps the mark,” Mackenzie concluded.
Sheriff Mann said he was satisfied there was wilful damage caused to the property and fined Hill £125.
He said he had gone into the trial with some trepidation but found it to have been a “much more pleasant experience” than anticipated.
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