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A youth football coach based in Dubai has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught with four small bottles of CBD vape oil, reports The Sun.
Billy Hood, 24, from London, was approached by police while getting something out of his car. Assuming they had the wrong person, he submitted to a drugs test, which came back negative, and gave them permission to search his car and apartment.
Hood told officers he had been driving a friend of his from England who he said must have left the oil in the door pocket of his car. The former semi-professional footballer, who used to play for Kensington & Ealing Borough and now coaches youth football in Dubai, insists he has never touched drugs or even smoked a cigarette. Unfortunately, they didn’t believe him and he was taken to Dubai’s CID headquarters.
Dubai police officers claim they were responding to a tip-off when they searched his car and apartment, but found only the oil and some cash Hood says he was given by his employer while he set up a bank account. CBD oil, which is usually used to treat anxiety and nausea, is legal in the UK but because of the tiny trace amounts of THC in the oil, it is enough to be convicted of possession in Dubai.
According to campaigners, Billy was arrested on January 31 before being pressured into signing a confession written in Arabic, which it turns out included the more serious offenses of selling and trafficking the oil.
Speaking with The Sun, Billy’s mum Brenda said: “I don’t think there’s a word in the dictionary that describes the pain I’m going through. I can’t talk about it without tears forming in my eyes. It’s too hard to take in. The odd time he tries to phone. We love him so much.”
She added: “This is not our Billy; he is 100 per cent innocent. There has been no help from the embassy. We have been in touch with them non-stop. I’ve contacted them every day. The most I’ve got from them is that ‘he’s ok’.”
Hood’s family are currently being helped by a charity that helps Westerners who have been given long prison sentences in the UAE.
Founder and CEO, Radha Stirling, explained: “He was arrested and accused of trafficking, selling and being in the possession of CBD oil, which is illegal in the UAE. He had been in prison for four days and was forced and coerced into signing a confession, which is commonplace in Dubai. Being in possession of CBD oil would be a very, very small sentence, possibly a few years maximum, but because they’ve added trafficking and selling in there it has become 25 years.
“The only evidence is the confession which was in Arabic and he didn’t know what he was signing. Billy only had a very small amount of the CBD oil, but within the oil there are microscopic trace elements of the active ingredient THC and that’s enough for a conviction. It’s incredible, 25 years for having an oil that can’t even get you high, it’s extreme.”
Radha says a lawyer for Hood will lodge an appeal and her organisation plans to lobby the British government for help in a bid to have the sentence overturned.
Terrified Billy added in his statement: “I do not smoke vape pens, cigarettes or even shisha. 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.”
A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson commented: “We are giving consular support to a British man who has been imprisoned in the UAE.”
The UAE is infamous for handing down lengthy prison sentences for drug-related offenses and drug trafficking can potentially be punished with the death penalty. Even possessing trace amounts of illegal drugs can land you a minimum four-year prison sentence.
Billy Hood’s family has set up a GoFundMe page, which has so far raised almost £11,000.