A TAXI driver accused of groping a teenage girl in his cab has spoken of his relief after he was cleared by a jury.
Dad-of-six Jamil Iqbal, 40, of Brierfield, had always denied the charge of sexual assault on a 16-year-old girl in April 2010.
He described the past two-and-a-half years as a 'nightmare' after he lost his job as a taxi driver and had to borrow money to pay for bills and food.
Mr Iqbal, who has five daughters aged 17, 15, 11, eight and three and a baby son who was born on Christmas Eve, said he now wanted to get his life and licence back.
He said: "It’s a relief. It has brought us closer together as a family. It has been a struggle. How many other people out there have been wrongly accused? It was hard to explain to my daughters what was going on, that it was all wrong.
“Everything was upside down. I’m really disappointed that my licence was suspended before I had been in court.
“I was always going to see this through, to prove that I hadn’t done it. All of this because someone wouldn’t pay a fare. Why?”
And his wife of 17 years, Najama, 39, a welfare assistant at Walter Street County Primary School, blasted the judicial system for taking so long to clear her husband of the charge.
She said: “We just want a normal life back. It was such a relief to see him come home from court.
“I knew if he did something wrong he’d tell me. I knew he was telling the truth. He’s spent two years scared, not sleeping, stressed out.
“He was made to feel guilty without any proof. We are well-known in Brierfield and everybody knew about this.
“What we went through was horrible. Why did it takes nearly so long, nearly three years?”
Mr Iqbal was alleged by the girl to have put his hand down her top and inside her bra after he picked her up from a pub in Burnley Wood on her 16th birthday on April 7 2010.
The complainant told the court that Mr Iqbal, of Humphrey Street, had asked her for a hug, then touched her and she had ‘shoved him off’.
According to the girl, who had been celebrating her birthday by drinking cider with her mother, the defendant had then asked her: “Can I touch you one more time, please?” and told her: “I have a nice body.”
Giving evidence, Mr Iqbal responded to those claims by telling the jury that the girl had been in the back of the vehicle, had leant forward into the front, and he had pushed her back gently on the shoulder.
Mr Iqbal, who was working for Crown Taxis at the time and has no criminal convictions, was found not guilty by the jury last Thursday, and was discharged from the dock by Judge Simon Newell.
Mr Iqbal’s barrister, Simeon Evans, said Mr Iqbal was a man of good character and that there had never been a complaint made against him during his eight years as a taxi driver.
He added that the job was Mr Iqbal's only income and he would have been taking ‘an enormous risk’ if the girl’s claims were true.
Mr Evans said: “This was a drunken, giggly girl, behaving in a silly way. He pushed her away.”