Cleric is jailed for rape at mosque

Jailed: Mohammed Hanif Khan is a serious risk to the public.
Jailed: Mohammed Hanif Khan is a serious risk to the public.

A MUSLIM cleric convicted of raping a young boy as he attended Islamic education lessons at his mosque was jailed for 16 years, writes crime reporter Claire Lewis.

Mohammed Hanif Khan, aged 43, of Owler Lane, Grimesthorpe, Sheffield, was told he must spend at least eight years in jail after being found guilty by a jury at Nottingham Crown Court of sexual activity with a child, as well as the two counts of rape.

The charges relate to two boys who attended the mosque in Capper Street, Stoke-on-Trent, where he was imam, in 2009.

Khan, who appeared in court wearing a black suit, blue shirt and yellow tie, was sentenced by Mrs Justice Dobbs after a three-week trial.

The judge said that Khan had blatantly abused the trust bestowed on him by the community as imam of the mosque.

She said: “A more serious breach of trust can’t be imagined.

“You were the imam and not only were you the boys’ teacher you were the boys’ guide.

“You were taken into the hearts of the community and treated like a god.

“One of the boys described you as being so big you were like the queen.”

For the two rape charges, she sentenced Khan to a determinate period of 16 years in prison, to serve a minimum of eight years before he could even apply to be freed and to 12 months to run concurrently for the charge of sexual activity with a child.

She also told him he would be on the sex offenders’ register for life and was subject to a sex offenders’ protection order.

Mrs Justice Dobbs also referred to Khan’s employment prior to his post as imam at the Capper Street mosque, when he was the UK’s first full-time Islamic minister at Dovegate Prison, near Uttoexeter.

She said he had resigned from this post after allegations emerged that he sexually harassed three female members of staff.

This was not raised in front of the jury during the trial but was ‘significant’ at sentencing, she said, because it served to show Khan was a serious risk to the public.

In mitigation, Robert Woodcock, QC said Khan’s offending may not have been motivated solely by sexual gratification.

He told Mrs Justice Dobbs: “There was, you may conclude, something about the whole appearance of the defendant that was consistent more with an arrogance and a swagger, therefore his offending may have been something to do with a power complex over those boys.”

He said Khan was a man of ‘considerable intelligence’ and ‘highly articulate’ who was trying to embrace more modern ways at the mosque and said it would be wrong to think he had taken the imam post to get close to young boys.

But Mrs Justice Dobbs said she had looked over at Khan on numerous occasions during the trial and saw him smugly smile towards the public gallery, ‘giving the impression that you were untouchable’.