Please Remove Incorrect Criminal Record.

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The false UK criminal record is preventing my charity work.

The Greek description of "embarrassing him" and "attacking his honour" has been changed by the UK authorities to "using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause fear or provocation of violence"!

Statement: -
On 23.6.02, the 95-foot Gaff Schooner was berthed stern-to on the breakwater at the south-eastern side of Volos harbour in Greece. At night with the deckhand ashore and the cook sound asleep, there was a large group of youths making a commotion, shouting and laughing on the quay. There were many people around promenading along the waterfront as is customary in Greece. As skipper of the yacht I ignored the noise and went to bed.

At 2230, there was a loud banging that sounded like the yacht’s gangway being picked up and thrown against part of the yacht. It sounded as though damage was being done which obviously I could not ignore. I got up and found about 6 or 8 youths running off the yacht back onto the quay. As I stood on the aft deck facing the noisy rabble, to my surprise one 14-year-old, presumably to show off in front of his friends, tried to force his way onto the yacht. I blocked his passage at the point where the gangway joins the aft deck; he slipped and fell into the water. I watched to ensure he was able to get out of the water onto the quay assisted by his friends and then went back below. There were further “attacks” resulting in the vessel’s ensign being torn to shreds. Each time I chased the yobs away. Although dark I considered the age range probably to be between 14 and 23.

Apparently several hours later, the youth was found by four port police officers in the town and asked why he was wet. He had not complained to anyone because obviously he knew he had been up to no good. This resulted in four port police visiting the yacht in an emotional and angry mood. They refused to come aboard the yacht to discuss the matter. They shouted accusing me of throwing the youth in the water and asking why. They appeared totally uninterested in hearing any answer that did not concur with their apparent prejudgment that I was guilty. They insisted that I should go to the port police station immediately and would not wait for the following morning. I expressed my concern at leaving the yacht with the lone girl cook aboard in such circumstances and asked for police protection. They refused point blank. Eventually they promised it would only take five minutes and I could return - they were lying. As I went with the port police crowds of yobs were cheering and clapping apparently at my arrest.

At the station it became obvious that no one wanted to hear my statement. When I began answering in a way they did not like, they walked away. The officer apparently in charge said he did not believe me. I told him he was not there [so how could he know?]. He told me that the youth was “not a druggy”, although he had not tested him or even arrested him. Eventually I persuaded the port police to ask the parents of the youth if I could talk with them. The parents were quiet and showed no animosity but an uncle interrupted in a loud, aggressive and accusative manner. The officer in charge refused to interpret after a very short while because he did not want to hear what I was saying. The whole affair appeared to be orchestrated by a few very biased port police and the youth’s uncle. I was given the opportunity to pay to be released. I thought about this, as it certainly would have been an easy way out, but decided that this would give a very wrong message to the yobs that apparently frequently cause trouble. I spent two nights in a police cell before being taken to court. At one point, I was told by an officer who appeared to like putting handcuffs on me at every opportunity, not walk up the stairs two at a time, then he told me not to smile! The port police made absolutely no effort to interview any of the crowd on the quay either bystanders or the yobs themselves. They took no statements other than from the 14 year old who was accompanied by two friends.

In court all the facts came out. The charge of endangering life had been dropped leaving “attacking the youth’s honour” and “embarrassing him”! The youth admitted he was not in any way embarrassed. Although everything went in my favour in court, I was absolutely amazed to be found guilty and given three months imprisonment suspended for three years!

It became patently obvious that the case was a deep embarrassment to the majority of port police officers. Many of these officers I had got to know through my dealings when presenting the ships papers. They considered the case completely ridiculous and privately expressed sympathy.

Many Greeks I spoke to were very familiar with prejudice against foreigners, prejudice those who appeared on large yachts they could not afford, prejudice against those who were not of Greek Orthodox faith and especially those who opposed the Greek young in any way. I am told it is part of the Greek culture to protect their young even to the extent that they “molly-coddle” them well into adulthood. There have been many problems associated with youths boarding yachts and other vessels without permission especially in Volos. It was reported that one vessel was set adrift in Volos harbour in the Spring of 2002. Many have been damaged or had items stolen. One port police officer even advised a yachtsman against berthing in that part of Volos harbour where the incident took place. It is apparently a known area for youth drug taking - and all this within sight of Volos port police station! It seems the port police take no action.

It is not the place of police officers to show any emotion, to shout at any time or to show prejudice. It is not their job to accuse; that is the job of the public prosecutor. It is not their job to judge; that is for the court judge. They should remain aloof from any noisy rabble, keeping calm at all times. They should collect all the evidence possible and interview all the witnesses. They should never refuse protection to anyone especially the captain of a foreign vessel. In my case the officers had no powers aboard a British Registered Yacht as it is outside their jurisdiction. They did not arrest me properly because they did not caution me or follow the correct Greek legal procedures. Such officers who display extreme prejudice should be either sacked or extensively retrained.

Greece has great potential as a tourist destination: the friendly people, the culture, the archaeology, the fine weather, the food and wine, the many beautiful islands and many other attractions. However, great long-term damage is being done to the tourist industry by legal cases such as the “Plane Spotters”, and now my case. The tourists from many western countries are terrified when they hear of such injustices because they are afraid it could happen to them. Greece must improve its judicial system if it is to be acceptable within Europe.

As is so often the case, it is a great shame that it only takes a few extremely prejudiced people to cause so much trouble and do so much damage.

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