By Tom Kelly
A restaurant owner yesterday branded the justice system a ‘joke’ after he was locked up for seizing two teenage yobs who broke into his beer cellar.
Sal Miah spent five hours in a police cell after he chased down the hoodies and held them in the bar while his staff dialled 999.
The married father-of-five assumed police would commend him for catching the young criminals.
But when officers arrived they arrested 35-year-old Mr Miah on suspicion of assault and battery.
He was hauled to the police station where he had his DNA, fingerprints and police mugshot taken and put in the cells.
Mr Miah, who has run the Raj Poot restaurant in Crowborough, East Sussex, for 14 years, said: ‘I could not believe it – I had stopped a crime from happening and even delivered the suspects to police on a plate.
‘But they didn’t seem interested in what had happened to my store room and all the beer these boys had tried to steal.
‘They just listened to them complaining that I had punched and attacked them. It was completely ridiculous.
‘I felt I had to do something. They were stealing my stock.’
Mr Miah’s ordeal began when he heard a loud crash outside his restaurant at around 10pm a fortnight ago.
When he went outside to check, he spotted the teenagers trying to smash their way into the beer cellar.
The yobs fled, but Mr Miah pursued them and managed to grab them and bring them back to the restaurant, where he sat them down by the bar.
He told his diners not to worry and instructed staff to call the police.
But as he did so a large group of the teenagers’ friends assembled outside and started to kick the door in.
Fearing for the safety of his customers, Mr Miah locked the door to prevent the ‘intimidating’ youths getting in, he said.
He went outside to stop them from breaking his windows and pushed several of them away.
But when the police arrived the youths accused Mr Miah of punching them and he was arrested.
As officers put him in the back of a patrol car the laughing yobs hurled abuse and mocked him with shouts of: ‘you’re nicked’, he said.
Mr Miah, who has no previous convictions, was finally released at 4am after receiving a caution for assault and battery, which will stay on his record for five years.
He said: ‘The system is a joke. How can a man who tries to prevent a crime in progress end up being the criminal?
‘People are living in fear of these kind of yobs but when you do take a stand and try and defend your home or your business you end up in trouble.
‘It’s the wrong way round. These boys told the police I had punched them and they believed them.
‘This country is getting worse. You see these gangs tormenting people and they are just getting away with it.
‘But who was looking out for my interests? This has been an unbelievable stress and strain on my family.
Sussex police said Mr Miah should not have tried to apprehend the youths and should have ‘observed from a safe distance’ before dialling 999.
The spokesman said: ‘On no account should any attempt at aggression be made as this could easily escalate into violence.’
A 13-year-old boy was later arrested and charged with burglary with intent.