(Mirror) A pensioner was arrested by armed police and faced racism charges for six months after he told airport security he was not Muslim when asked to remove his shoes.
Paul Griffith, 74, was just a day away from appearing in court on a racism charge, when prosecutors suddenly dropped the case.
Mr Griffith was going through security at Stanstead Airport on April 1 as he prepared to jet off to Malaga for a week’s holiday when he was pulled to one side.
The former hairdresser had set off a security alert and was asked to remove his shoes by a member of staff, when he responded: “I am not Muslim am I?”
One of the security guards accused Mr Griffith of racism and called police, arguing he was “shocked and unhappy” at the pensioner’s remark.
Mr Griffith, of Colchester, Essex, said: “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.
“I was quizzed for an hour and told I was free to catch my flight but had to report back to police as soon as I returned to the UK.
“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.
“By that time I had missed my lift home and eventually had to get a bus. 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.”
Months later Mr Griffith went to Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court where the charge was read out and after he pleaded not guilty the case was adjourned to last Thursday – more than 200 days after the alleged incident.
Then 24 hours before he was ready to fight the allegation, his solicitor was told there was not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and so the case was discontinued and the trial cancelled.
Mr Griffith claims he suffered a heart attack while waiting and had been force to pay more than £1,500 in legal fees.
He said:”It has been incredibly stressful – all because I asked a question and apparently dared to use the M word.”
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, Frank Ferguson said: “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.
“The police were consulted and were in agreement with the decision to discontinue the prosecution.”