x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Road rage YouTube footage inadmissible in UAE court, says lawyer

A YouTube clip of a man beating an Asian driver in Dubai cannot be submitted as evidence because it was obtained illegally, says legal expert.

DUBAI // A video clip capturing the assault of an Indian driver by a government official would probably be inadmissible as evidence in court, a legal specialist has said.

Dubai Police confirmed on Wednesday night that the driver responsible for the clip, which has been viewed by thousands on YouTube, had been arrested on charges of breaching privacy.

UAE law states individuals who upload such videos may face defamation charges.

As a result the clip would probably be considered unlawful, said Dr Ali Al Jarman, managing partner of Prestige Advocates and Legal Consultants.

"You can't use something illegal as evidence in your case," said Dr Al Jarman, who has a PhD in criminal law. "If the source is corrupt, the evidence is corrupt."

Under UAE law, he said, no one was allowed to record people without their knowledge and consent, or without prior approval from the public prosecution.

"On many occasions I needed to obtain a recording for my cases and have been turned down by the prosecutor's office," Dr Al Jarman said.

He said recording a crime in public and taking the recording to the police would be the same as turning yourself in for breaching people's rights.

"People are not allowed to film any incident, even if they see a crime being committed. The act of recording the incident is illegal in itself. Even if you take it to the police and don't publish it, you are still in violation of the law."

But after the video went viral, Dubai Police asked in a tweet on Tuesday for the public to bring such footage to them.

They have in the past encouraged drivers to file complaints against bad drivers to their official Twitter account and, in 2004, launched two helplines for residents' traffic complaints.

Speaking in 2011, Lt Ahmed Al Amiri, head of the "We are all Police" campaign, said they had received more than 600 calls and pictures related to traffic breaches in July that year.

"Based on the pictures we get, we study the violations and contact the violator," Lt Al Amiri said.

Dr Al Jarman said: "Eyewitness accounts of crimes are more than enough from a legal standpoint. If people want to help they should just come forward as witnesses.

"These days there are cameras everywhere. A lawyer can obtain a recording from police, traffic, or private security camera and use it as evidence in the case."

He said the law against recording incidents came into effect several years ago when staff at a traffic camera control room recorded a Dubai Police officer being killed by a speeding vehicle in Airport Tunnel.

The video was circulated by multimedia messaging service, with commentary poking fun at the officer's death. The deceased's family raised a complaint against the control room operators who spread the video.

The law exists to protect people, Dr Al Jarman said.

"A person may be found innocent in court," he said. "But due to the video the public have already judged him to be guilty.

"Many times the video is used to spread rumours and unfounded criticism. Also, sometimes the victim in the video may not actually be a victim.

"Videos do not always give you the whole context of the incident. There may be underlying factors that don't come across in a video."

The man captured on film attacking the driver after an altercation in traffic remains in custody after his arrest on Tuesday, public prosecutors said today.


* Additional reporting by Awad Mustafa and Salam Al Amir