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  • Writer's pictureDue Process International

24 year old pro footballer sentenced to 25 years over CBD in Dubai

The UAE has arrested dozens of foreigners for 'crimes' like having a poppyseed on the bottom of one's shoe, having prescription medicine, residual hashish from marijuana smoked abroad, a glass of wine on a plane and so on. Tourists and expats are at great risk of police set ups and sting operations. The FCDO has been asked to increase travel warnings to citizens.

A 24 year old semi-pro footballer and coach from Kensington, has been sentenced to a whopping 25 years after Dubai police discovered 4 small bottles of CBD oil left in his car by a friend he’d driven to the airport two weeks earlier. Billy Hood was forced to confess in Arabic after being pressured by CID officers. He’s been sentenced for trafficking, selling and possessing a few grams of CBD in the medieval justice system.

In a statement to lawyers, the anti drugs fitness fanatic who was arrested on the 31st of January 2021 described what happened, “I had just moved to a new home in Dubai and a friend of mine came around to see my new place. I ordered a food delivery then went to my car to get a second phone charger for him to use when I was suddenly approached by police. They jumped out to arrest me, handcuffed me. One officer jumped out and pointed a taser at me, threatening to use it if I didn’t cooperate. They demanded I show them where the drugs are. I was shocked, scared and confused. I told them I wasn’t aware or in possession of any drugs or substances.

They wanted to search my car then my apartment and found nothing”. Billy was sure they had the wrong man and volunteered for his property and body to be searched. The police had told him they were interested in him from social media but never asked for his phone or computer. Billy didn’t understand what their interest in him was.

They found a few thousand pounds in cash in his apartment and asked why he had cash. His new employer had paid him in cash while his bank account was being set up. His employer confirmed this and it was stated in his contract. They arrested his friend when they discovered him in the apartment.

“I had the keys to my company car and they demanded to search that too”, he dutifully allowed them to do so. He had nothing to hide and was happy to give them a urine sample. When police searched the company vehicle, Billy says they found four small bottles of vape oil and a vape pen in the passenger area. Billy explained his friend from England had visited a couple of weeks ago and must have left it there on the way to the airport. Billy was not aware of its presence.

On Billy’s arrival at CID headquarters, the head officer insisted he explain the contents of the bottle, “To my knowledge, it is normal vape oil”. Officers processed the urine sample which returned negative. Billy was asked to sign a document in Arabic. He kindly asked for an English translation but the officer replied, laughingly, “If you do not sign, you will never leave CID”. Billy refused to sign so was sent back to a holding cell. Another two days passed and on the fourth day, he asked to speak to the arresting officer. He succumbed to the pressure and agreed to sign the document in Arabic, not knowing its content. “Forced and coerced confessions are commonplace in Dubai”, said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, an expert witness who has confirmed the same to the English courts in extradition cases.

The next evening, I was taken to Al Barsha police station and kept in an isolation cell for 14 days without any hygiene products. I had no contact with the outside world”. Another week later, Billy was told he was facing a second prosecution. His world was falling apart. “I do not smoke vape pens, cigarettes or even sheesha”. The sportsman couldn’t believe he was being accused of something he is wholeheartedly against.

“I coach football 6-7 days a week. I am always working with kids and in schools all over Dubai. From age 16, I played football at a professional level for more than 2 years. I have always had a zero tolerance on any drugs or illegal substances. For me to be accused of promoting and selling drugs in a country that has the same beliefs and values as me is very upsetting as it affects my future. One of the main reasons I moved to the UAE was to pursue my coaching career. I have spent 6+ years collecting my coaching badges and would never let something such as drugs ruin everything.”

Billy’s brother Alexander is fighting for his freedom. “It’s been difficult to cope with Billy’s ongoing detention and the idea that he could be in a UAE prison until he’s 50. Our mother, Breda, is beside herself. It’s just not something anyone envisions happening to their own family. How could we? Billy is a healthy, fitness focussed guy. Unlike other kids, mum never had to worry about him getting into drugs or smoking. We never thought for a moment that going to Dubai could be a one way ticket for him. It’s one thing if you’ve done something wrong but a whole other story when your life is being ruined as though you’re a criminal when you’re not”.

Alexander and his family have been working with local lawyers to appeal Billy’s convictions but they only have a short time left. “If he doesn’t win his appeal, we will never be the same. We will have lost our beloved Billy”.

55 year old Breda, a teaching assistant, told Detained in Dubai of the trauma they've endured the past 9 months, “I have hidden myself away, crying and crying when I imagine what our sweet boy is going through. It is the worst stress I've ever been through and I feel helpless. He's always been such a good boy and has never been troublesome. He helps out children, coaches and volunteers. He's never been into drugs, ever. It is impossible that he is guilty of the allegations against him. Please investigate this case, Sheikh Mohammed. My son does not deserve to lose his whole life over CBD oil that wasn't even his.”

The family have discovered that his brother’s situation is not isolated. British veteran Andy Neal was detained for over a year on drugs charged before finally being exonerated of all charges. Billy has been held at the police station for nine months. Artur Ligeska was finally exonerated of drugs charges against him but suffered severe human rights abuses within the prison, eventually writing a book about his torture.

52 year old Breda continued, “The FCO have done nothing to help us. We are so disappointed. After learning of the other cases where people have been set up by police or falsely accused of a crime, I can't believe the British government has not put this in their travel warnings. Would people still go to Dubai if they knew they could lose their freedom even though they've followed the law? I know my son wouldn't have. The FCDO need to tell British citizens and give them the information to decide whether to take the risk or not.”

“Dubai police’s handling of drug cases has resulted in numerous unfair detentions of foreign nationals. We’ve seen people arrested and even convicted without evidence, often on the basis of a forced confession in Arabic or on the basis of third party witness testimony from incentivised informants”, said Ms Stirling, who represented Cat Le-Huey, Andy Neal, Artur Ligeska, Perry Coppins, Peter Clark and Derrin Crawford and Conor Clements, all of whom were unfairly detained in Dubai. “Drug convictions are prestigious for police, leading to promotions and kudos. Courts do not require substantial evidence to secure a conviction.

They are happy to sentence people’s lives away based on third party hearsay or a forced confession. Foreigners find it next to impossible to achieve a fair hearing and false allegations are commonplace. Detained in Dubai was founded in 2008 when Cat Le-Huey was arrested for specs of dust at the bottom of his bag. He was eventually exonerated but I realised his predicament was not unusual and was asked by other victims to continue helping. Since then, we have helped in more than 15,000 cases of injustice.

“Although the CBD oil did not belong to Billy, it is legal in many countries including the UK where one can buy it at a local health food shop. It does not get you ‘high’ and in no way warrants this man’s life to be stolen from him.

“The UAE promotes itself as a glamorous ‘party place’ to foreigners with marketing designed to lure over investors, skilled labour and tourists. Celebrities are paid to market the country, ultimately masking the truth for money. People have been arrested for legal prescription medicine, for specs of dust or because of an association to someone, a false allegation, for having a glass of wine on a flight or trace elements of hashish consumed outside the country that are still present in the system. Then we have numerous foreigners arrested for cybercrime complaints like a Facebook message, WhatsApp or even a negative hotel review.

“These are not isolated incidents but repeat patterns and this is why Baroness Whitaker, Andy Slaughter and other MP’s have called on the foreign office to increase their travel warnings and even sanction the UAE over the abuse of Brits in detention. Lee Bradley Brown was killed in police custody and an inquest into his death has just been reopened. Albert Douglas was hospitalised in custody after being beaten by prison guards. The European parliament has just voted to boycott the Dubai Expo but what is Dominic Raab and the FCDO doing to protect citizens abroad?

“Billy Hood does not deserve to spend 25 years in a desert prison because his friend left some CBD oil in his company car. He has already spent a horrendous nine months in detention, an utterly frightening and stressful experience for him and his whole family. We appeal to Sheikh Mohammed and the government of Dubai to let Billy come home”.

His lawyers have launched an appeal with legal fees supported through a gofundme account. The family hopes the court exonerates Billy but their desperate hopes to see him by Christmas are bringing daily despair.


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