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Grooverider's ordeal in prison

Grooverider talks about his ordeal in prison

Radio 1 DJ Grooverider has spoken for the first time about his prison ordeal after serving 10 months in Dubai for possessing drugs.

The DJ was in the middle of a four-year sentence for cannabis possession but he was released early after being pardoned by the Dubai Royal Family.

Commenting on his release he said: "It's water under the bridge to me now. I've got a life, I've got to move on."

Grooverider co-presented a weekend drum & bass show on the station.

'Nothing wrong'

The DJ was originally arrested on 23 November 2007 after being caught with 2.16 grams of cannabis at the airport.

Talking about the incident he told Newsbeat: "I got on a plane to go to Dubai to play a gig.

"I was picking up my luggage and the customs inspector came over to me and he said, 'Can I check on your bags,' and I said, 'Yeah, of course,' because I didn't think nothing was wrong.

He checked through my bags and found nothing. Then he found a bit of dust in the trouser pocket
Grooverider on being caught
"He checked through my bags and found nothing. Then he found a bit of dust in the trouser pocket.

"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.

"So they just arrested me at that point on suspicion of having marijuana.

"The mad thing was he told me that this, 'Was not a problem, we'll arrest you now but we'll send you home'. I thought well fair enough that's normal. At the end of the day they don't like what's in my bag and they've got every right to send me home."

Going to jail

Grooverider, whose real name is Raymond Bingham, then spent time in the airport jail but matters took a turn for the worse when the customs officers came back.

"Two or three hours later they came in and said, 'It's time for you to go now," he explained.

"So I'm thinking, 'OK I'm going home,'. They put me in a van and the guy is driving me around the airport so I'm wondering, 'Why is he driving me around the airport? Isn't my terminal just there?'.

When I heard four years, I kind of dropped a little bit, I nearly fell on the floor
Grooverider on his sentence
"I went to the guy, 'What's going on? I thought I was going back home. I thought you were just going to send me back'. He goes: 'No you're going to jail'."

When he finally reached the deportation jail though, he got the shock of his life.

"I saw a couple of English guys and they said to me, 'What are you in for?'. I said: 'They found a little bit of dust, weed in my pocket," the Radio 1 DJ recalled.

"He said: 'You know you're going to be here for four years.' I said: 'You've got to be kidding me'. When I heard four years, I kind of dropped a little bit, I nearly fell on the floor."

He had to spend another four months in the detention centre where he spent his time reading books and playing chess in conditions he described as "appalling".

"They don't have toilets, they have holes in the ground. There's eight people to a cell and they do treat you alright don't get me wrong but it's just horrible seeing so many people come in for nothing," he admitted.

"The despair and the unhappiness. That's more battering than anything else."

Admitting possession

But he was then sentenced to four years in jail after admitting possession and transferred to Dubai's main prison.

The Radio 1 DJ said: "I didn't even go in the court, I just know I got four years for nothing. But there's nothing you can do. It is frustrating but you've just got to take it."

Despite the sentence, conditions improved, he made a lot of friends and Bingham said he "knew the latest I'd be getting out would be September because I knew what the charge was".

After several false release hopes, he finally heard he was going to be granted a pardon near the end of August.

When it got announced there were people crying and rolling around on the floor. Everybody was excited to finally get out of there
Grooverider on his release
"I was playing football in the yard and I heard a load of names on the tannoy and all the names were all the people that came in together," he revealed.

"When we heard that, we all knew we were going to go home."

But he had to wait another seven days before it was announced on the TV news.

"It was the longest seven days in the whole time that I'd been there," he said. "But when it got announced there were people crying and rolling around on the floor. Everybody was excited to finally get out of there.

"I felt relief just knowing it was coming to an end."

When Bingham finally got to their airport though he suffered another setback.

He added: "They took me to an airport jail on the day of my flight and said my ticket was not there.

"I had a really nice police officer though who said, 'I'm going to take you to the airport and I'm going to sort your ticket out for you. So he took me to the airport and sorted my ticket out."

Grooverider co-presented a weekend drum & bass show
To escape the waiting press, he diverted his flight from Heathrow to Gatwick.

And when he finally turned the key to his front door, his release finally sank in: "Up until then I didn't really notice. I wasn't thinking about it. It was only when I put my key in the door to my house that I thought flipping hell what the hell has happened."

Looking back, Bingham said the hardest part was having to leave his eight-year-old daughter at home while he spent time in prison.

"It was the worst part missing my girl grow up for the last year," he said.

"I talked to her at Christmas and she was in floods of tears and that wasn't the easiest thing to deal with.

"I didn't even recognise her because she'd grown a foot (0.3m)."

Now that his ordeal is over, the Radio 1 DJ says he is just looking forward to getting back to work.

"It's been a long time. I'm going to get my flow together back now," he added.

There's a special documentary about his experience on the Surgery from 10 o'clock on Sunday night.

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