x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Beach couple avoid prison

The British pair convicted of indecency on a public beach in Dubai will not go to prison but will be deported.

DUBAI // The British pair convicted of having illicit relations on a public beach have been shown a "small measure of mercy" by the Dubai Appeal Court, their defence counsel said yesterday. The court suspended their three-month jail sentence for a period of three years. While the three years is technically a probationary period, neither Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, will be in the UAE to risk violating their probations. Their lawyer, Hassan Mattar, is working to complete procedures for their deportation. "They are ecstatic - they could not believe it, they are so happy," Mr Mattar said. "This shows that the judiciary in the UAE is fair and impartial, and if the court showed a small measure of mercy towards my clients it proves that the court is not swayed by the media or any other consideration." The court upheld the couple's convictions for having sexual relations out of wedlock, committing a scandalous public act and being intoxicated in public. It upheld the Dh1,000 (US$270) fines imposed on each defendant as well as their deportation orders, which are mandatory for those convicted of committing a scandalous public act. Deportation is a lifetime exile, which means neither defendant can return to the country without obtaining special permission. Prosecutors said the judgment was disappointing. The defence team has consistently denied that their clients had intercourse. Mr Mattar, in an earlier summation to the Dubai Court of First Instance, held the forensic doctor's report as proof of his clients' innocence. "The medical report said there was no evidence of intercourse," Mr Mattar had said. "The witnesses interviewed by the prosecution were too far away to be able to say for sure what they saw exactly. That coupled with the findings of the medical examiner is the main thrust in our defence." Prosecutors interviewed five witnesses in the case, mostly passers-by who saw the couple on the beach on July 5. They had met 12 hours earlier, at a brunch. When the meal ended the pair went for a walk on the beach, where they were arrested in the early hours. The arresting officer failed to turn up to testify throughout the trial. In his statement, however, the officer said he was passing near a beach in Jumeirah close to Burj al Arab when two men stopped his patrol car and told him a man was having sex with a woman on the beach. "I took a torch and went down to the beach and saw them," his statement read. The case put the spotlight on all-inclusive Friday brunches that are served with unlimited amounts of alcohol, but authorities have said it is the responsibility of the establishments to make sure customers do not drink to excess. Col Khalil Ibrahim al Mansouri, the deputy director of Dubai CID, said yesterday: "If a person appears too drunk then it would be responsible of staff members not to encourage further drinking." Mohammed Khalifa Ali, director of the inspection and permission section at the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said the department did not regulate product promotions offered by hotels. "We do not set, monitor or control any promotions that are given at licensed hotels and that is an internal decision made by the hotel management. "We co-operate with police to ensure that alcohol is not being sold to the under-aged [below 21] and that they are sold at the times permitted." The foreign media have followed the case of Palmer and Acors closely throughout and were out in force for yesterday's appeal hearing. The verdict brought the case to a close, as the prosecution will not be appealing against the conviction to the Dubai Cassation Court, the highest court in the emirate. hbathish@thenational.ae