"What he did was a gross breach of the trust placed in him."
An Imam who has fled the country is sentenced to 11 and a half years in jail for historic sex abuse relating to two female complainants attending the Queens Cross Mosque Dudley in the 1980s.
Hafiz Mohammad Rahman, 58, was found guilty on five counts of indecent assault at Wolverhampton Crown Court in October 2016.
The two women, who cannot be identified, accused Rahman of sexually assaulting them, during religious lessons at the mosque.
By boarding a flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh and not returning, Rahman was no longer entitled to any mitigating circumstances. Thus His Honour Judge Nicholas Cartwright handed Rahman a sentence of 11 and a half years.
With DESIblitz having followed this case from the very beginning, here are key aspects to this story :
Female Victim 1
In 2012, Victim 1 courageously came forward and exclusively spoke to DESIblitz on video about what had happened to her.
The victim told how she went through one of the most tormenting and vile experiences any young child could face. This happened whilst she was under the authority of an Imam in the mosque.
Being sexually abused is not what she had envisaged to experience learning Quranic Arabic as an innocent child.
The woman mentioned that she told her boyfriend and life partner about the Imam. This is because the abuse caused some difficulty in her relationships early on.
Complaint, Arrest and Bail
In 2012, the first woman made an initial complaint about Rahman at the police station.
As a special measure, she participated in an ABE (Achieving Best Evidence) video, telling the police exactly what had happened.
With the help of her brother who was briefly aware of the abuse, the imam was located and identified. The Imam was arrested on 21 March 2014 and taken to the police station for formal questioning.
After the interview, Rahman was released on conditional bail, pending further enquiries and the Crown Prosecution Service building their case.
Rahman’s bail conditions included the following:
- No contact with witnesses
- Not allowed to instigate contact with any witness
- Not allowed unsupervised contact with children.
The Charges and Trial
On 03 November 2014, Rahman pleaded not guilty on multiple counts of indecent assault and indecency with a child perpetrated against victim 1 at a mosque during the 1980s.
The trial began at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 05 May 2015 before His Honour Judge Michael Challinor. Tariq Bin Shakoor led the defence counsel and Antonie Muller headed the prosecution case.
Mr Muller told the court, Rahman was accused of having a sexual interest in the first woman.
According to the charge sheet, by Rahman giving the first victim, private lessons in isolation meant he was more personal.
Rahman was cleared by the jury on four counts of indecency with a child and indecent assault relating to victim 1 when aged between 8-9 years.
The jury could not reach verdicts on the remaining four counts relating to victim 1 when aged between 10-11 years.
The retrial case was presided by His Honour Judge Nicholas Cartwright at Wolverhampton Crown Court on 29 September 2016. Instead of Mr Muller, Peter Arnold conducted the prosecution case.
The prosecution had a stronger case this time round as a brave second victim came forward to testify against Rahman.
The two women then aged between 10-11 and 6-8 reported Rahman of sexually abusing them on a number of occasions from 04 August 1984 to 17 March 1987.
Counsel Mr Arnold told the jury the abuse to both victims came from a man who was supposed to protect them and give religious instructions.
The crowns case heavily depended on evidence given by the two women, along with the two siblings/brothers and the boyfriend of the first victim.
Rahman claimed through his defence counsel that he was unable to attend the latter part of his trial due to ill health.
A twelve-member jury found Hafiz Mohammad Rahman guilty of two counts of indecent assault relating to the first victim. He was also convicted of three counts of indecent assault relating to the second victim.
Evidence given by the boyfriend of the first victim was probably key for the jury to convict Mr Rahman.
Mr Arnold successfully prosecuted Rahman proving two specifics. Firstly the Imam indecently assaulted female victim 1 between the ages of 10-11 years by touching her private part with his fingers.
Secondly, the Muslim cleric indecently assaulted female victim 2 between the ages of 6-8 years by squeezing her chest area over the clothing.
The jury dismissed two counts of indecency with a child relating to victim 1 between the ages of 10-11 years.
Despite Rahman’s absence, His Honour Judge Cartwright hinted that the former Imam was facing an immediate custodial sentence.
Escape to Bangladesh
The Imam fled to Bangladesh, a day after the jury announced the guilty verdicts and just days before he was due to be sentenced.
West Midlands Police issued a statement on the matter saying:
“Hafiz Rahman absconded from the UK on Saturday 8 October when it is believed he boarded a flight to Bangladesh. We are making urgent enquiries to try and arrange his return.
“He claimed to be too ill to attend his court hearing on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 October at Wolverhampton Crown Court, where he was convicted in his absence of sexually assaulting two girls.”
According to West Midlands Police, the court did not instruct the force to arrest Rahman or remand him in custody following the conviction Rahman was on bail at the time when he made his escape from Britain.
With Rahman fleeing the country, the first victim was particularly upset after waiting over three decades before justice was finally served.
In the absence of Rahman, the sentence hearing took place at Wolverhampton Crown Court. His Honour Judge Cartwright passed the following sentence on 03 November 2016.
- Count 1 – 3 years
- Count 3 – 6 years
- Count 5 – 15 months
- Count 6 – 15 months
- Count 7 – 15 months
Hafiz Rahman was sentenced to a total of 11 years and six months. Delivering the sentence, His Honour Judge Cartwright said: “What he did was a gross breach of the trust placed in him.”
Rahman would have to be placed on the sex offenders register for life. He is also disqualified from working with children.
Overall this story is a wake-up call for many of us who refuse to come to terms that such incidents do take place in our communities.
We all have the duty, as individuals, to see to it that such criminals answer for their heinous crimes. We should also provide protection to those vulnerable in order to avoid undergoing such injustice.
Mosques and any other place of worship should avoid the cover-up culture of sweeping such issues under the carpet.
If you or any member of your family has suffered from sexual abuse, please contact the police and seek counselling.
Both victims, who were deprived of their childhood, will no doubt be hoping this evil man is arrested and serves his full sentence, without parole.