Young Brit sentenced to 25 years in Dubai prison over CBD vape oils.

Stephen Andrews
14 Oct 2021

Do you check your luggage is drugs-free before travel? That's probably a very good idea, especially if you plan to cross into territories where drugs are a big no-no! and where possession can land you... in some cases, 25 freaky years in jail!! A British football coach was recently detained in Dubai after a police search found four bottles of CBD-containing vape liquid in the boot of his vehicle.

Billy Hood, 24, who played semi-professional football for Kensington and Ealing Borough FC, was sentenced for trafficking, selling, and possessing drugs in the emirate after CBD oils for vaping were found in his car. Drugs use and possession is a serious crime in the UAE, with authorities showing little tolerance. Even when it comes to as innocent substances as CBD.

According to news reports, Mr Hood was forced to sign a document in Arabic confessing to crimes he did not commit. Mr Hood was arrested outside his home in Dubai on January 31. He reportedly didn't know the CBD oils were in his car and believes the stash belonged to a friend who came to visit from England and left it there on the way to the airport. 

Mr Hood cooperated with the police and allowed them to search his property when approached at his place of residence. The Kensington man was then taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), where he underwent a urine test, which returned negative. 

Hood was interrogated on the contents of the vape bottles and was threatened to sign a document in Arabic without being provided with a translation. He initially refused to sign the document and was sent to a holding cell before asking to speak to the arresting officer a couple of days later. At this time, Hood caved in and signed the piece of paper without knowing its contents. 

Hood was told he was facing a second prosecution a week later, although he emphasised he did not smoke "vape pens, cigarettes or even shisha."

According to the Guardian, who also reported on the case, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was "giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE."

The not-for-profit group "Detained in Dubai" is also on Hood's case. The organisation helps expatriates who end up often wrongfully convicted in the United Arab Emirates. 

In a statement for "Detained in Dubai", Hood said he was "shocked, scared and confused" when police approached him outside his home. "I told them I wasn't aware or in possession of any drugs or substances," he said. 

Together with Detained in Dubai and a local legal team, Hood's family are to appeal against his convictions. They've set up a GoFundMe page that has raised over £14,000 at the time of writing this article. 

Hood's mother, Breda, a 55-year-old teaching assistant, said her son "does not deserve to lose his whole life over CBD oil that wasn't even his." She also urged the FCO to upgrade travel warnings to Dubai with extra information on the emirate's criminal justice system. She also urged UAE's government to intervene in her son's case.

Billy's brother Alexander said: "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".

Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, warned that travellers to the emirate should be extremely cautious regarding drug policies. Recent convictions have included for possession of poppy seeds, which contain opium alkaloids, prescription drugs, and even traces of drug consumed months before arrival showing in urine tests

"You can protect yourself by strictly being careful about what you take, but only to a certain extent because there are still wrongful arrests and the desire of the police to gain a conviction even if wrongful", Stirling said.

Stirling said Hood was beaten, tasered and forced to confess to more serious crimes like trafficking and selling these tiny bottles, and that "forced and coerced confessions are commonplace". 

A take from all of this? Do Not Take Drugs with you when you travel to other countries, particularly territories where it can get you or a friend a draconic sentence for doing so. Even prescription or over-the-counter medicines can be classified as illegal in UAE, and it's easy for travellers to make mistakes. What's legal at home does not mean it's legal abroad.

Stephen Andrews