A British pensioner who quipped “I’m not a Muslim” when asked to remove his shoes at airport security spent more than six months with a criminal charge of racism hanging over him, before the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case just one day before it was due in court. Paul Griffith, who was flying from Stansted Airport in Essex, has described the experience as “incredibly stressful”, the Daily Mail has reported.
Griffith, 75, was on his way to Malaga, Spain, for a week’s holiday when he set off the scanners on his way through security at Stansted Airport earlier this year. He was pulled aside and asked to remove his shoes, at which point he remarked “I’m not a Muslim, am I?” The security guard accused him of racism and called the police, telling them that he had been upset by the remark. After taking him to an office to be interviewed, the police allowed him to continue on his journey only to arrest him a week later as he was passing back through the airport.
“One minute I am queuing up to get on a plane and the next I am confronted by two armed policemen. They said I had used racist language and took me to an office in the terminal,” Mr Griffith explained.
“When I got back I had to wait six hours before they interviewed me again, arrested me and said that was being charged with causing racially aggravated harassment. I was photographed, had my finger prints taken and they also took a DNA swab from my mouth. Then they said I would have to go to my local police station.
“When I went to Colchester police station I was told I had been charged with an offence under the Crime and Disorder Act but that I could accept a caution instead. I refused to do that – I had done nothing wrong and I wasn’t going to admit to a criminal charge if I wasn’t guilty of any crime.”
As a result, his case was scheduled before Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded not guilty to the charge. His case was adjourned by the Magistrates and was due to be heard last Thursday, but with just 24 hours to go the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge, as they conceded that there was not enough evidence to mount a case.
“I have never fallen foul of the law before and the whole affair has been a complete waste of police time, the court’s time, my time as well as taxpayers’ money. It has been incredibly stressful – all because I asked a question and apparently dared to use the M word,” Mr Griffiths said.
Frank Ferguson Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, commented “Following receipt of the evidential file a full review of the evidence took place.
“In order to successfully prosecute a charge of racially or religiously aggravated disorderly conduct, we first have to show that the language used was threatening or abusive and in these particular circumstances we could not show that to the high criminal standard required.”
Racial profiling is not officially used by UK airport security, but statistics show that Asian people are five times more likely, and black people seven times more likely to be stopped than white people, according to the Civil Rights Movement.