A religious teacher jailed for molesting a young student at a Dublin mosque has had his 14-month jail term increased to four-and-a-half years by the Court of Appeal.
Abdur Rashid (51), with an address at Blessington Court, in Dublin, had denied sexually assaulting the six-year-old girl during religious instruction at the mosque on a date in December 2015.
The Bangladeshi national was found guilty by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, with the final four months suspended, by Judge Pauline Codd last November.
The Director of Public Prosecutions sought a review of Rashid’s sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”, and the Court of Appeal agreed today.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said Rashid was a teacher in the mosque providing religious instruction to children, including the victim.
He said Rashid kissed the girl in an adult manner, placed his hands under her clothing, and touched the genital area.
The victim’s mother confronted Rashid, who denied knowing anything about it. He made certain admission to gardaí, which he subsequently “rowed back on”, and pleaded not guilty for a three-day trial, in which the victim was cross-examined.
Counsel for the DPP, Peter Le Vert BL, submitted that the sentencing judge erred in placing the offence at the lower end of the scale of seriousness.
Mr Le Vert said the skin-to-skin contact and the fact Rashid was in a position of authority “firmly” placed the offence in the mid-range. Furthermore, there was no guilty plea and no expression of remorse, counsel added.
Mr Justice McCarthy said the offence was of “considerable gravity”.
He said the young girl became traumatised by the incident. She had nightmares, required counselling, and was diagnosed as suffering from anxiety. She was afraid she would contract a disease from the kiss and that Rashid would remove her from school.
The offence also had an adverse affect on the victim’s family, particularly the girl’s mother, the judge added.
Mr Justice McCarthy said the mitigating factors were “modest”. He said Rashid had been living in Ireland since 2001, had a history of work and had no relevant previous convictions.
“Whether by coincidence or design,” Mr Justice McCarthy said Rashid developed a number of mental health issues a year after the offence.
He said a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital found Rashid to have been “malingering” when examined, and concluded that he did not have any psychiatric illness at that time.
The Court of Appeal found the sentencing judge to have erred in selecting two years as the pre-mitigation headline sentence.
Mr Justice McCarthy, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said five-and-a-half years was the appropriate starting point, with a one year discount for the mitigating factors.
The court did not suspend any portion of the sentence, but directed two years post-release supervision.
Rashid was immediately taken into custody.