A SCOT facing three years in prison for putting his hand on a man’s hip in a Dubai bar which he claimed was to avoid spilling drinks will appear in court today on a “public indecency” charge amid claims by his legal team that locals are trying to get westerners jailed for “sport”.

Jamie Harron, 27, from Stirling, has already spent 30 days behind bars for drinking alcohol and “making a rude gesture” on July 15. He was in United Arab Emirates (UAE) for two days and had been due to fly on to Afghanistan to take up a job as an electrician.

Speaking ahead of today’s court appearance, Harron, who has lost his job and been forced to pay £32,000 in expenses and legal fees, described his ordeal as “just unbelievable” and admitted he is “still in shock”.

Lawyer Radha Stirling has claimed “it’s a sport to have someone locked up for a few days” in Dubai, and some locals even use the law “for vindication if they feel offended by someone”.

In Dubai it is illegal to drink or be drunk in public, swear or make rude gestures, kiss in public, cross-dress, have sex outside marriage, share a hotel room with someone you’re not married to – and homosexuality is completely banned.

Harron was arrested on July 15 after a businessman called the police and claimed the Scot had been “very drunk” and “repeatedly” touched him.

The businessman later dropped his complaint after discovering Harron is facing three years in prison, but prosecutors are proceeding with the public indecency case which comes to court today.

Harron said: “I hope that it can be sorted out but I already didn’t think it would have gone on for so many months in the first place. I’ve lost my job. I’m in debt now. I may be going to prison and all this for a two-day stopover. It’s just unbelievable. I’m still in shock that it’s actually happened.”

Harron’s representative Stirling, founder of British campaign group Detained in Dubai, which provides legal advice to foreigners facing charges in UAE, said they deal with around 100 enquiries a week, primarily from British nationals who are facing charges for offences that would not be illegal in the UK.

She said: “It’s very common. In fact, what we’re seeing is it’s almost a sport. Socially, it’s a sport to have someone locked up for a few days.

“Now I think in this [Harron’s] case they weren’t expecting it would turn into this six-months ordeal but what I’m noticing is that people receive a lot of kudos, especially if they have a British person locked up.

“So, there are a lot of different social reasons to make reports and they’re very report happy. They know that the judicial system there is flawed and they use it for fun, or for vindication if they feel offended by someone. They know they can have someone locked up and they use that.”

Stirling has also criticised the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office for providing advice to British travellers.

She said, “They don’t talk about the prevalence of false allegations, the lack of evidence that’s required by police to actually secure a prosecution.”

A foreign office spokesman said of Harron’s case: “We have been in contact with a British man following his arrest in Dubai in July. We are providing consular assistance.”

LAWYER Radha Stirling is about to launch a landmark case against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which alleges the UK government is “working too strongly in cooperation with the UAE Government”.

She has criticised the FCO for providing advice to British travellers which “really falls short of the reality of the situation”.

As well as representing Jamie Harron, she has worked with Scot David Ballantine who was forced to stay in Dubai without his passport for two years over a false allegation of not paying a £2 taxi fare. He was legally not allowed to work and faced homelessness.

Ballantine said: “The [UK] Government didn’t help me. They just gave me a list of lawyers and were on their way.”

Stirling also worked with Billy Barclay, from Edinburgh, who was recently released from prison in Dubai.

“He told us that the [UK] embassy was advising the family against campaigning for his release,” said a statement on Stirling’s website. “In fact, it was only as a result of the campaign…that he is home today.”

The class action on behalf of more than 50 complainants is based on the UK Government’s alleged failure in its duty of care towards citizens about the dangers of falling foul of the law in Dubai.

Statements taken so far have included everything from small debt cases, wrongful arrest, false imprisonment and detention without charges, to commercial cases where large amounts of money have been lost because, it is alleged, the UK hasn’t enforced a treaty between Britain and the UAE on judicial assistance in civil and commercial matters.

She said the treaty “provides that British citizens should have access to fair justice in the country and the UAE is actually in breach of that treaty”.

Stirling explained: “There’s two elements to that [the class action]. One is that they’ve [the UK Government] breached their duty of care in not sufficiently warning people about the judicial problems there [in Dubai] and the prevalence of false allegations. The other element is for commercial clients who have suffered extreme losses to investments, property, businesses and asset theft, which is quite prevalent.”

A foreign office spokesman responded by providing a statement from the British Ambassador to the UAE, Philip Parham.

He said most stays in UAE are “trouble-free” but they have been involved in 213 new detainee cases in 2017 and 281 in the previous year.

Parham said there are “limits to the support we can provide” and underlined that “we cannot interfere in the legal processes or prison systems of other countries just as we would not allow other governments to interfere in ours”.

He added: “Our travel advice for the UAE explains that local laws and customs are very different to those in the UK and that there may be serious penalties for doing something which may not be illegal in the UK.”