Authorities have dropped charges of racism against a 75-year-old retiree who talked back to an airport security worker that had asked him to remove his shoes.
Paul Griffith made the comment six months ago as he was about to leave for vacation from London’s Stansted airport.
Griffith reportedly set off a metal detector in the security line at the airport. When a worker asked him to remove his shoes he said, “I am not Muslim am I?”
The Mirror reports the security guard accused Griffith of racism, saying he was “shocked and unhappy” by the remark.
Griffith was detained by authorities, but eventually allowed to leave for his week-long vacation.
“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,” he said. “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 he returned, Griffith said, things got more serious.
“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,” Griffith recounted.
Police eventually charged him with causing “racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.”
“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,” he told the Daily Mail.
“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.”
Griffith said he pleaded not guilty to the offense months ago.
Then, just 24 hours before he was to go to court last Thursday, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge.
But Griffith said that action came too late, and he criticized police for coming down so hard on him.
“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,” 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 Frank Ferguson said the case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence.
“Following receipt of the evidential file a full review of the evidence took place,” he explained. “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.”