If you didn’t know – and the chances are very good you don’t because it wasn’t widely reported – Radio 1’s DJ Grooverider (real name Raymond Bingham) has been released from prison in Dubia after being pardoned by the royal family.
If you still don’t know what all this is about, let’s rewind to earlier this year, back on February 19th Raymond, who was traveling to do a gig in Dubia, arrived at the airport where he was stopped by customs. To cut a long story short they found about 2grms of cannabis in his pocket – “not enough” according to the DJ “to roll a spliff with”
“It was marijuana but it was a very, very small piece. It was just under a joint that was loose in the pocket that had been washed out.
Although in truth 2grms is almost a party’s worth of blow, it’s over a teenth (1.75 grms) after all and most people can roll more than one spiff per teenth. But that’s his story and he stuck to it.
Dubia is one of those places where they take the war on drugs very seriously – absolutely in fact – and a teenth of “forgotten” hash or weed is enough to get you banged up for four years. Grooverider isn’t the first person to fall foul of these harsh laws, but he is one of the few famous people to do so. As a result his plight was widely reported in the UK media, petitions were started, not least by several UK cannabis campaigns. No doubt he also paid out a fair amount to lawyers (and who can blame him) , all of which seems to have paid off with a royal pardon.
Interestingly there were four petitions submitted to the Number 10 site, which were all rejected and two of them have been hidden entirely (More details cannot be shown), but two are still there to see. The reason for rejection are given as
Petitions are not a suitable channel for individual legal cases. You should contact the Foreign Office directly.
This is a matter for direct communication with the Foreign Office.
Both of these two visible petitions essentially made the same point, which seemed tobe at the root of all the outcry in his defence – Grooverider is famous and therefore the government should bring its influence to bear on the Dubia government to get him released. Both petitions cited the case of an American rap artist:
Other “high profile” drug offenders in the UAE have received the Kings Pardon & have been deported. US R&B star Dallas Austin was sentenced to 4 years after being caught with a gram of cocaine & ecstasy in July 2007. He claimed the drugs had been planted, but was pardoned immediately when convicted, following intensive lobbying by US senators and pop stars.
Last year Grammy-winning R&B producer Dallas Austin was arrested in possession of 1.26g of cocaine (a class A drug, cannabis is class C) as he arrived in Dubai. After a short spell in jail he was allowed to return back to the US after receiving a pardon when Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch pleaded with the ambassador and consul of the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington, D.C. for his release.
All I am asking is that the Foreign Office applies the same pressure to help free one of Britain’s best loved and most respected DJs and ensure the safe return of Raymond Bingham to Britain
Now, UKCIA didn’t join in with the “Free Grooverider” campaigns, not because we think he deserved to be in this situation (even though he also had hard core porn when he was busted), but because he didn’t deserve special treatment just because he was famous, that would be one rule for them and another for the rest of us. After all, the only reason his case got all the publicity it did get was because he was a Radio 1 DJ, all the other poor people suffering in foreign jails also deserve support and public campaigns to get them out, but it doesn’t happen of course.
What the Grooverider case – and the Dallas Austin example before him – should do is to highlight this situation, to shine the spotlight on the people left to rot in Middle eastern, Indian and Asian jails (and other places), all of them victims of this insane war against a plant, which is even more insane when that plant grows almost wild in the country concerned.
Raymond Bingham AKA Grooverider came home last week and according to the BBC
To escape the waiting press, he diverted his flight from Heathrow to Gatwick.
Pardon? HE diverted his flight? If that happened, it would have been done at a somewhat higher level than a Radio 1 DJ. This sounds like someone wanted to keep the story off the press. Anyway the end result was his home coming has hardly been reported at all. It’s a story not touched by the mainstream press who were so eager to splash it all over their pages when he was sent down. Admittedly there has been a bigger story to keep the press hacks occupied with the ongoing collapse of capitalism over the past few weeks, but the silence was deafening. Grooverider is back, but very quietly. Is this an example of the “quiet deplomacy” our foreign office is renound for, quietly working on behalf of influential people or organisations in a way they don’t for the rest of us? It certainly has that feel.
BBC Radio 1 did sort of cover his return though, with an interview on the cringe worthy Sunday night show “The Surgery” and is reported on the Newsbeat page here, which features a section of his interview. It’s a story worth reading but it’s notable for not going beyond his personal experience or feelings connected with that experience. Grooverider is silent about the wider issues, about all the other people less fortunate than himself languishing in hell-holes around the globe, or what he thinks of the anti cannabis laws. But at least he didn’t come over the reformed person who’s seen the error of his ways, for that at least, we should be grateful.
To be fair to him he’s probably fully aware how lucky he is and has been told – off the record of course – not to rock the boat, that’s understandable to an extent.
But perhaps UKCIA could ask him to think about the wider issues here, to use some of his wealth and fame to support the wider law reform movement. UKCIA doesn’t do money, so we’re not asking for a donation, but perhaps he could give Transform a bit of a boost? How about it Raymond?
Welcome home Grooverider, enjoy your freedom.