LONDON: British newspaper Mail on Sunday agreed to pay £180,000 to a former minicab licensing officer Javed Iqbal three years after publishing an article that falsely implicated him of facilitating a paedophile ring that was run by taxi drivers in Rochdale,The Guardian reported.
In 2016, a UK court sentenced 10 men for committing sexual offences against a teenage girl in Rochdale. The group comprised of men of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Afghan origin who were sentenced for sexually abusing dozens of girls following an investigation centred on the town of Rochdale near Manchester. The court heard that the men groomed the girls with gifts and plied them with alcohol and drugs before forcing them to have sex with others.
In 2017, the Mail on Sunday published a story which claimed that Iqbal, who is of Pakistani origin and worked as a junior licensor for minicabs, was a “fixer” for taxi drivers “at a time when some local drivers were raping underage girls as members of paedophile rings”, The Guardian said.
As the case proceeded, the Mail on Sunday admitted that Iqbal was a member of a large team that looked over the licensing of cab drivers.
Iqbal accused the Mail on Sunday for involving him because of his race and said that following the article his “whole world crumbled” as he lost his job, was unable to see his children and had to take anti-depressants. He was unable to find another job because, though there was no legal evidence of his involvement, media reports implied that he facilitated the gang.
“The colour of my skin was the selling point. Put that together with grooming gangs and then — boom,” he told The Guardian.
“I feared for my life. I put CCTV all up around my house because you get lunatics. I had to come off social media completely. My son was studying at Preston and people would say: ‘Your dad’s dodgy, he’s part of this grooming thing’.”
In 2018, a UK court had deported three men to Pakistan after they were stripped of their British nationality after they were convicted of luring girls as young as 13 into sexual encounters using alcohol and drugs. They had acquired British citizenship by naturalisation.
Earlier this week, the government extradited a man who was convicted in the case and had escaped to Pakistan.