Paul Griffith, 75, set off the security scanner’s alarm at Stansted airport when travelling to Malaga for a week’s holiday. He removed his shoes as requested, but said: ‘I am not Muslim am I?’
A security guard accused him of racism and called the police, saying he was upset by the remark. ‘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 said yesterday.
Mr Griffith was allowed to go on his trip but was arrested when he returned. He was charged with causing ‘racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress’. ‘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 offense under the Crime and Disorder Act but that I could accept a caution instead.
“Of course you don’t have to take the bag off your head, m’am. Have a nice flight”
‘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 he appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded not guilty to the offence. The case was adjourned to last Thursday, but with just 24 hours before appearing, the Crown Prosecution Service suddenly dropped the charge due to lack of evidence.
The retired hairdressing salon owner, from Colchester, Essex, yesterday criticised the police for their heavy-handedness. ‘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.’
Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, Frank Ferguson said: ‘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.’