On January 31st 2021 Football coach Billy Hood said he had just moved to Dubai to coach kids’ and was arrested when he went to get something from his car. “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,” he said. “They demanded to 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.” The police had told Billy they were interested in him because of something they had seen on social media. Convinced they had the wrong man, Billy allowed officers to search his apartment and car and submitted to a voluntary drugs test which came back negative. There is zero tolerance for drug-related offences in the UAE. The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of even tiny amounts of drugs are severe. 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.
On Billy’s arrival at Criminal Investigation Department 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. 3 days later He succumbed to the pressure and agreed to sign the document in Arabic, not knowing its content. Billy is known amongst his friends and loved ones to have always had a zero-tolerance for any drugs or illegal substances. Billy moved to the UAE to pursue his coaching career. He spent 6+ years collecting his coaching badges and would never let something such as drugs ruin everything.
Billy’s brother, 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”. The family hopes the court exonerates Billy but their desperate hopes to see him by Christmas are bringing daily despair. Billy is a great friend to me and many others, please sign this petition to bring Billy back home to his family and friends. A statement from the UAE Public Prosecution said: ‘Mr. Hood was found to be in possession of quantities of synthetic cannabis oil. ‘The Police search of Mr Hood’s vehicle found the cannabis oil, substantial amounts of cash, an electronic hookah, various storage bottles and boxes, and 570 individual cartridges to be used for substance vaping.
‘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.’ Police in Dubai are thought to have singled out Mr Hood after monitoring WhatsApp messages and looking for key words related to drugs. Family and friends of Billy Hood gathered on Saturday (October 16) in Parliament Square to appeal for his 25-year prison sentence to be dropped. Abu Dhabi Courts accept Billy Hood did not traffic nor sell the CBD vape oil left in his car by a visiting friend. They accept that he “unintentionally possessed” the CBD but have sentenced him to TEN YEARS in prison, despite new legislation eliminating prison sentences for foreigners found in possession and allowing for deportation. “The UAE has just claimed they will eliminate prison sentences for foreigners found to be in possession of THT products, opting for deportation instead but this law does not come into effect until January 2022 and may not apply retroactively”, said Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai who is lobbying for 25 year old Billy Hood’s release. “Dubai police were extremely negligent when they charged Billy Hood with trafficking and selling the mini bottles of CBD vape oil found in his car.
They turned what would have been a small possession case at worst into a federal case that has seen him locked up for almost a year and facing a life sentence in Abu Dhabi. There was no evidence whatsoever of trafficking and none of selling. Dubai’s overzealous prosecution has ruined this young man’s life and put him and his family through hell. Billy 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”, added Stirling. it’s very confusing”, Breda told Detained in Dubai, “How can this have escalated as far as it has? I tried not to get my hopes up for today as I knew something like this might happen, but I now have to face the possibility that I may not see my son before Christmas and I can’t tell you how broken I am feeling”. Billy’s father Alex has been outraged by the lack of intervention coming from the British government. “The Brits have developed strong ties with the UAE so why aren’t they using their relationship to help people like Billy? This should be on the top of their list. Our son is not interested in drugs at all, not consuming, selling or trafficking. It wasn’t his fault at all that his friend left the vape bottles in his car. Why should he be punished for someone else’s actions? All of his tests came back negative and there is zero evidence of selling or trafficking. It’s like something out of a movie and I can barely cope with the frustration of not being able to help him. We are campaigning out here but he’s in there completely alone”.
Mr Hood’s best friend Alfie Cain previously claimed he told him he was slapped, tasered, beaten for five days to make him sign a confession and only given bread and small amounts of water while at the Al-Barsha prison. A clemency request has been submitted by the Foreign Office for Billy’s release and a petition established by the family has attracted almost 160,000 signatures. “We pray every day for Billy’s release”, said Billy’s brother Alexander. “Billy sends lots of love to everyone supporting him. It’s been so hard on him. I can’t plead enough for the UAE to grant him clemency, give him his life back, please. The UAE has just promised to change their laws and we ask his highness to take this into consideration when reviewing our clemency application”. Ten years for “unintentional possession” of CBD vape oil is a grave injustice. “We need MP’s to push a resolution for Billy’s family. The UAE is increasingly a strong ally to the UK and with that, comes an immense possibility for cooperation on issues of human rights. I will be speaking to Parliamentarians tomorrow and have no doubt Billy’s case will attract significant support”, added Stirling. For decades, the nation’s penal code, based on Islamic law, or Shariah, has routinely landed expats and tourists in jail for offenses that few Westerners would otherwise consider crimes.
The reforms come as part of a wider legal overhaul announced as the UAE celebrates a half-century since its founding and seeks to boost its image as a cosmopolitan hub attractive to tourists and investors. Billy’s family has set up a GoFundMe page which has so far raised over £17,000. The UAE public prosecutor’s office 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. “Mr Hood had access to an English interpreter at all relevant stages, including his questioning, confession, and trial. He was represented in his trial by a defence lawyer whom he selected. “Mr Hood has since appealed the initial ruling in accordance with UAE law and will receive a hearing at Abu Dhabi Court. At all times, Mr Hood has been treated in accordance with the UAE law and applicable international standards.” According to the human rights NGO Human Rights Watch, prisoners, including some with chronic health conditions, were denied adequate medical care.
During the pandemic, Human Rights Watch also claimed that the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions made social distancing impossible for prisoners and authorities in the prison “Crowded, unsanitary prison conditions and widespread denial of adequate medical care are nothing new in the UAE’s notorious detention facilities, but the ongoing pandemic is an additional serious threat to prisoners’ well-being,” said Michael Page, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. “The best way for UAE authorities to allay concerns of prisoners’ family members is to allow inspection by independent, international monitors.” In al-Awir, sources told Human Rights Watch that from March to June, prisoners who had HIV were denied access to a hospital. And in 2019, there were reports that patients were denied life-saving HIV treatment.