• Detained in Dubai

BBC: Billy Hood Appeal with Radha Stirling, mother Breda and brother Alex


01 December 2021

BBC Report:

A football coach who was jailed in Dubai after four bottles of vape liquid containing cannabis oil were found in his car has had his sentence reduced.

Billy Hood, 24, claims he was forced to sign a confession written in Arabic despite not speaking the language. He was originally jailed for 25 years but had his sentence reduced to 10 years at an Abu Dhabi court on Tuesday, campaign group Detained in Dubai said. Mr Hood, from west London, claimed the oil was left by a friend. His mum Breda Guckion said the result of the appeal was "not really welcomed". She told BBC Breakfast: "Billy has done nothing wrong. We thought we were going to find out that Billy was going to be able to come home. "He's been told that the charges against him have been dropped yet he is still there for another ten years - it's heart-breaking. "He's been able to phone a couple of times, he says it's okay but you can hear in his voice that he's not. "Billy is quite strong-hearted and upbeat, but you can hear the fight in him is going." Forced confession The Abu Dhabi General Directorate for Drug Control (GDDC) said it found cannabis oil and 570 individual cartridges to be used for substance vaping. Substantial amounts of cash and "an electronic hookah" were also found in his car on 2 February, shortly after he moved to the country. Mr Hood, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, told Detained in Dubai police had unexpectedly turned up and demanded to search his home and car. Vaping cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal in the UK and has become extremely popular - typically used to relieve pain, anxiety or stress. The Foreign Office advise there is a "zero-tolerance for drugs-related offences" in the UAE. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence. Detained in Dubai chief executive Radha Stirling said Mr Hood was "forced to confess to federal crimes with promises of his imminent release". "He was given both a carrot and a stick, so some prosecutor could get his dues. It's all too familiar a story," she said. "Dubai's overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man's life and put him and his family through hell." The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was "giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE". He claimed the oil was left by a friend who had been visiting from England two weeks earlier. But Mr Hood, from Notting Hill, claimed he was forced to sign a confession after being pressured by local law enforcement. The Unite Arab Emirate's (UAE) public prosecution denied this, claiming Mr Hood had access to an English interpreter at all relevant stages, including his questioning, confession and trial. In a statement, the prosecutors said: "Mr Hood was convicted based on evidence including the items found in his possession, information on his phone, third party statement, and his own confession. "Vaping cannabidiol (CBD) oil is legal in the UK and has become extremely popular - typically used to relieve pain, anxiety or stress. The Foreign Office advise there is a "zero-tolerance for drugs-related offences" in the UAE. Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence. Detained in Dubai chief executive Radha Stirling said Mr Hood was "forced to confess to federal crimes with promises of his imminent release". "He was given both a carrot and a stick, so some prosecutor could get his dues. It's all too familiar a story," she said. "Dubai's overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man's life and put him and his family through hell." The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was "giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE".


 

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