The Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman has admitted unwittingly providing a character reference to a court for a defendant who had already pleaded guilty to sexual assault.
The man, Zamal Uddin, 44, operated an unlicensed taxi from his home in Rogers Estate, Globe Road in Bow.
Although Mayor Rahman said he had been led to believe Uddin was in court due to a revocation of his driving licence because he had not been insured, he was not told that Uddin also faced sexual assault charges.
Snaresbrook Crown Court heard that last October Uddin picked up a young woman in Hoxton as she was returning home from a night out. He molested the woman inside his car, before following her into an alley as she tried to escape, where he sexually assaulted her further. Uddin pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual assault and driving while disqualified.
When Uddin was sentenced on March 8, a testimonial from Mayor Rahman was presented to Judge Timothy King along with representations from several other councillors.
The judge suggested they had not been solicited in good faith. According to the East London Advertiser, he dismissed the testimonials for Uddin as appearing to be “in ignorance of your background and personality”.
Uddin was jailed for 18 months, as well as being ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for 10 years.
The case has been highlighted by local blogger and Sunday Express journalist Ted Jeory, who has criticised Mayor Rahman’s involvement, writing: “I wonder what Uddin’s victim thinks of such heavyweight support.”
Mayor Rahman has insisted he was misled by the man’s family, all of whom reside in his constituency of Spitalfields.
“They approached me on numerous occasions to give a reference for their brother who I also know as one of my constituents,” said the Mayor. “I was not aware of the nature of the charges against him and had no reason to believe or suspect him of any such conduct.”
“I was told that the named person was in court due to a revocation of his driving licence as he was not currently insured, ” he said. “I would not have even contemplated sending a reference if it was for a criminal offence, let alone a sexually motivated one.”
The Mayor’s office declined to comment further on the issue, but in his response to Jeory, Mayor Rahman insisted that “no one in the past has abused my trust in this way.”