New Dubai court to handle minor offences committed by tourists welcomed

Visitors and lawyers praise Dubai move to expedite cases where penalty is fines, not prison, when court opens this year.

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DUBAI // Plans for a fast-track court to handle minor offences by tourists have been welcomed by visitors and lawyers.

Dubai Courts director Mohamad Abdulrahman said the new court was due to open at the end of the year to speed up trials for offences that carry a fine, rather than a prison term.

Offences will include drinking alcohol without a licence and driving under its influence.

“The tourist court will make sure the tourist settles his petty crime in a small period of time. Minor offences will be settled between 10 to 30 days,” Judge Mohammad Al Saboosi said.

The court will increase tourists’ respect for the UAE, he said.

Tourists to the emirate said the court would help to allay fears of being detained for long periods for minor offences, such as being drunk in public.

“My friend was found drunk by police officers a few years ago,” said a tourist from Russia. “He was detained for an extended period of time. He drank earlier that night and got in to an altercation with an Indian man.”

The tourist, 28, said her friend was sentenced to a month in jail, but “the waiting for the trial date was long. He swore he would never visit Dubai again after he lost his job when he returned home”.

An Egyptian, 32, said a tourist court could be helpful for visitors but suggested it could pose problems if they believed they could get away with a fine and “a slap on the wrist”.

“We should respect the country and its law,” he said. “If I knew I’d get away with getting drunk by paying a fine, that would allow more to drink here and create problems.”

Lawyer Hamid Al Khazragi said the court would ease the load on lawyers and assist defendants.

“Once the case is considered a petty crime and most probably the offender would be fined, the case would be transferred to the tourists’ court and they will receive the swift judgment and be on their way,” he said.

Having a specific court for visitors will also allow more serious cases to move faster at Dubai Courts, Mr Al Khazragi said.

Lawyer Ali Al Shamisi said that the court could provide swift judgments in the short term, however it could also put pressure on the legal system with a backlog of cases.

“There is one law for all in the country. Residents and tourists should abide by it,” he said.

Indian tour guide A S said tourists who were part of a family group would not normally break the law, but younger visitors might get into trouble.

“We always tell tourists about the laws here and we advise them to enjoy their time in this beautiful emirate without getting carried away in nightclubs and bars,” said A S, 24.

The tourist court is due to begin handling cases later this year.

Another court is to be set up for minor offences committed by residents.