DUBAI // Witnesses to a fight or an injury causing accident can intervene to help, but they should never take the law into their own hands, lawyers say.
This particularly applies to young people, said Yousuf Khalifa Hammad, an advocate at Hammad & Associates Advocates and Legal Consultants.
"Most young people watch a lot of movies, but the reality on the ground is very different," he said. "The repercussions are many. It [getting involved in a fight] not only affects the young person, their reputation, their future but also their family and siblings."
That makes it crucial to understand the difference between stopping a fight and being involved in a fight, he said.
Mr Hammad said that if a person acted as a buffer between two parties to prevent a fight, it could not be used against him in court.
"However, that does not mean that the person should attack either side during the fight, thereby potentially taking on the role of aggressor. Their role is simply to ward off the aggression and break the fight," he said. And being involved with violence can bring harsh penalties. According to Article 10 of Federal Law No 9 of the Juvenile Delinquents and Vagrants Act, the maximum jail term for anyone under 18 when they commit a crime is 10 years.
Police rarely intervene in scuffles or arguments, but if there are injuries the response is much more severe, Mr Hammad said.
"It might seem like a good idea to side with a friend who wants to pick a fight with someone who swore at them, but things look different when the law is applied," said Mr Hammad. "Young people should lodge a complaint with the police rather than take the matter into their own hands.
"If someone is injured during a fight, then a charge of grievous bodily harm can be made. Youth should be aware that this will go on their record and they many not be given a certificate of good conduct if they want to apply for a job," he added.
If someone is injured - whether in a fight or some other incident - the law protects those who try to help, he said. As a matter of common sense, however, officials urge people without first aid or medical training to avoid trying to treat anyone who is seriously injured.
"Let's suppose someone has been hurt in an accident. Call the ambulance and police immediately to notify them, but do not undertake first aid if you do not have the qualifications," Mr Hammad said. "Do not pull the injured person from a car or move them, since this could result in a more serious injury."
Ali Musabbeh Dhahi, an advocate and legal consultant at Pan-Globe Advocates and Legal Consultants, said the law classified people in such situations as either medical professionals or common bystanders.
"A member of the community should call the police, ambulance or civil defence immediately. They can try to comfort the injured individual and inform them that the police are coming, hold their hand, get them to breathe and calm down, as well as keep them awake. These are ways to comfort an injured person and do not require medical training," he said.
Lay people must be careful to not incur liability, Mr Hammad said.
"People should help up to the extent of their knowledge and should not perform CPR, for example, if they do not have the training or even know what the person is suffering from," he said. "If things go badly, it would depend on what the medical report says about the cause of injury or death. A doctor is expected to know more than others about first aid ... if something exceeds the boundaries of his knowledge and the victim's death is directly linked to his actions or how he moved the injured, then he will be questioned about it and a lawsuit can occur."
If a man wants to help an injured woman, he must get permission first or face charges of violating her privacy, Mr Hammad said.
"He has to take her permission, if she accepts he can proceed to help her. However, if he asks and she refuses, then he should respect her wishes," he said.
In a more serious situation such as witnessing a theft, police advise people to let officers handle it. But the law shields them if they tackle the thief.
"People should not think that if they help, they may become the accused. They are a witness in such a situation and that is a positive move - the law will protect them," he said.