Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

British grandfather faces jail in Dubai just ‘for asking partying neighbours to quieten down while he babysat’

Ian MacKeller, 75, stranded in UAE after travelling there during festive period to visit his daughter

Tara Cobham
Wednesday 24 January 2024 19:35 GMT
Comments
Michael Douglas confused for daughter’s grandfather

A British grandfather has said he is facing jail in Dubai after being accused of trespass – just for asking partying neighbours to quieten down while he babysat.

Ian MacKeller, 75, travelled to the UAE during the festive period to visit his daughter, who had recently moved to the country, and to babysit her young child.

His daughter's neighbours hosted a New Year's Eve party and, with Mr MacKeller’s daughter expected to work in the early hours of the morning, the family said they asked the host to be mindful of noise.

Ian MacKeller was scheduled to return to Scotland on 10 January, but now remains indefinitely in the UAE (Detained In Dubai / SWNS)

At 1am on 1 January, the family messaged the neighbour, requesting they turn the music down – but it began to get louder, they claimed.

Mr MacKeller, of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, visited the neighbour to ask them to quiet down, taking his infant granddaughter with him to allow his daughter to sleep.

He knocked, but after nobody answered the door, Mr MacKeller noticed an open side path leading to the garden, where guests were mingling.

Mr MacKeller said he asked if guests could move the party indoors – but claimed they began to push him and shout at him, knocking his granddaughter's bottle to the ground. Some partygoers attempted to intervene, advising Ian to leave.

However, as he made his way to the street, he alleged the host approached him, shouting loudly – and even throwing her drink over Mr MacKeller and the baby.

Mr MacKeller described her actions as “unacceptable” and was eager to report the incident to the police, but his daughter refused, nervous to cause tension with her neighbours.

Now, the party host is said to have filed a police complaint against Mr MacKeller for trespass, which has prevented him from leaving the country – and he could face several years in prison.

Mr MacKeller was scheduled to return to Scotland on 10 January, but now remains indefinitely in the UAE, separated from his family and unable to receive medical treatment.

A Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed to The Independent: “We are providing consular assistance to a British man in Dubai.”

Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai, is working with Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, to set Mr MacKeller free.

She said: “This is a very sad situation. Nobody would ever imagine that a polite request to turn the music down would result in a travel ban and criminal prosecution. Again and again, we are reminded that a simple trip to Dubai can indeed be a one-way ticket. If the case isn’t dropped, Ian will likely end up in prisons notorious for human rights violations, and he simply doesn’t deserve it.”

Ms Stirling explained that it is “standard practice” in Dubai to preemptively file a police report when at risk of being reported and “manipulate” the system. She said: “The prosecution tends to side with whoever makes the first police report, so if someone is at risk of being reported themselves, they will quickly file against the actual victim. This is how people familiar with Dubai justice manipulate the system to their advantage.

“It is commonplace for foreigners in this situation to offer financial compensation to their accuser in order to drop the case.”

Calling for authorities in Dubai to crackdown on this “blatant abuse” of the criminal justice system, she said: “The practice is systemic and will require significant legislative change to stamp it out completely.

"It's imperative that parliamentary representatives support their constituents where they face injustice. We're seeing more and more MPs demanding action from the FCDO and foreign ministry counterparts in countries like the UAE, Qatar and Saudi."

The Independent has approached the Government of Dubai Media Office for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in