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Pakistan

UK’s first female Muslim lord mayor cleared in misconduct case

LONDON: A former lord mayor of Bradford Council Naveeda Ikram has been exonerated by the Court of Appeal in a case of alleged misconduct in public office.

A leading figure in the British Pakistani community in Bradford, Labour Councilor Naveeda Ikram faced claims that she lobbied council officials to win contracts for a company run by a friend.

According to the original allegations by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), she was said to have "a financial interest" in the success off Nexus Assist Ltd, which helped young people leaving care in Bradford.

The prosecutors alleged that she gave "financial support" to the company's boss, Ali Arshad, even guaranteeing his tenancy on a property in North Park Road.

Naveeda Ikram was further accused of "lobbying for paid work" on behalf of Nexus and "promoting" the company to officials without declaring a financial interest. Naveeda Ikram, who was a councilor from 2004 and lord mayor in 2011/12, denied any wrongdoing and mounted a fierce defence campaign to clear her name and reputation.

She maintained that she had never sought contracts for Nexus, had no financial interest in the company and "did not abuse the public's trust in her." The case against her was thrown out at the Leeds Crown Court by Judge Geoffrey Marson QC at the end of last year as the judge said that she had "no case to answer".

The prosecutors challenged the judge's decision and took the case to the Court of Appeal in London.

After listening to both sides, Lord Justice Treacy said there was "no sustainable evidence" that she had sought council contracts on behalf of Nexus and Judge Marson had been justified in describing the evidence against Ms Ikram as "wholly insufficient".

Lord Justice Treacy added: "The evidence had simply not reached the sort of level which would constitute a financial interest which should have been declared." Lord Justice Treacy said there had been "insufficiently rigorous analysis" by prosecutors of what the evidence was actually capable of proving. Clearing Naveeda Ikram of any wrongdoing, the Lord Justice said Judge Marson's decision to terminate Ms Ikram's prosecution was confirmed.

In a statement released to Geo News, Philip Goldberg of Minton Morrill Solicitors, who acted on behalf of Naveeda Ikram, said since Naveeda Ikram’s arrest on 3 March 2016 she had maintained her innocence and denied any conduct which would amount to misconduct in public office, a position which has now been vindicated by her acquittal.

He said that at her trial in late 2017 the prosecution did not even get beyond the half-way stage as the judge withdrew the case from the jury due to insufficient evidence but the prosecution, however, appealed that ruling.

“Having taken time to consider its decision, the Court of Appeal has rejected the prosecution’s argument that the judge had acted unreasonably in reaching the conclusions he did, accepting the arguments put forward by the defence. The effect of this is that the judge’s conclusion that the defendant should be acquitted on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to justify a conviction stands, and Mrs Ikram has been found not guilty. Since 2004 Mrs Ikram has tirelessly represented, as Councilor, the ward of Little Horton in Bradford. That dedication was rewarded in 2011 when she was appointed as the first female British Muslim Lord Mayor which remains the highlight of her public life to date,” said the solicitor. It’s understood that Naveeda Ikram wants to get justice from the Labour party after her vindication from the courts.

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