British man jailed in Dubai after row over £2 taxi fare

David Ballantine ended up homeless after his savings ran out while waiting for his trial

Jeff Farrell
Saturday 04 November 2017 16:00
Mr Ballantine was also convicted for staying in Dubai after his visa expired, despite that officials had confiscated his passport
Mr Ballantine was also convicted for staying in Dubai after his visa expired, despite that officials had confiscated his passport

A British man has told how he was jailed in Dubai for more than two months and trapped there for two years after a row over a £2 taxi fare.

David Ballantine, 46, also ended up homeless and slept in hotel toilets after his savings ran out while he waited for his court hearing in the UAE city.

He said his nightmare began when he jumped into a cab with his friends, before seconds later they told the driver to stop over confusion about which of the group was supposed to be in the car.

But the businessman said the driver kept going for nearly 150 feet before he stopped near a policeman, and complained to the officer, who told Mr Ballantine that he would have to pay for the trip.

Mr Ballantine claimed he got out and withdrew cash from an ATM just a few feet away to cover the AED 10 (£2) cost.

He said he dropped the money through the window of the car before he went back to his friends in the altercation in May, 2013.

But Mr Ballantine claimed the driver disputed that he had paid and jumped out of his taxi and attacked him before the police officer stepped in and arrested the British man.

He was later jailed for 69 days for supposedly not paying the fare, and accused of overstaying his visa when he appeared before court – despite the fact his passport had been confiscated.

Mr Ballantine, from Edinburgh, told the Daily Record: “He reversed the taxi aggressively back to where my group was.

“He accused me of not paying. I told him I had, and showed him where it was. He claimed that was his own money.

“He became more hostile until he physically attacked me.

‘‘I was worried. I was in a fight, in Dubai, where I knew the law could be harsh, and I knew the driver would be believed over the Westerner.”

Mr Ballantine was taken into custody and spent two years in the country while he waited for his trial.

He was convicted for not paying the taxi fare before being deported after serving out his 69-day jail term.

Mr Ballantine claimed the UK government did nothing to help him.

Radha Stirling, head of campaign group Detained in Dubai, helped Mr Ballantine throughout his ordeal.

He told the Daily Record: “He is part of a class action taken against the UK Government for failing in their duty of care to British citizens.”

Details of Mr Ballantine’s ordeal came after reports of a string of British nationals being harshly treated by authorities in Dubai.

They include Jamie Harron, from Stirling, who was sentenced to prison last month when a businessman accused him of touching his hip in a bar.

He was freed within days only after Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered he should be exonerated.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office warns British visitors in the UAE to be vigilant.

Its website reads: "You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times. There may be serious penalties for doing something that might not be illegal in the UK."

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