A TAXI driver, who sexually assaulted a teenage girl, has been jailed for three and a half years.

Father-of-three Zameer Arshad, 26, of Richmond Hill Street, Accrington, collected the 17-year-old victim and her two friends after they had been on a night out in Clitheroe.

He dropped her friends at their home before driving the girl to an unknown address in Accrington where he sexually assaulted her.

He then abandoned her in a distressed state in the town centre following the attack on 9 October 2010.

Arshad had been convicted of sexual assault after a five day jury trial.

The defendant had denied the allegation and, the hearing was told, had sought to portray the victim as a promiscuous person who initiated sexual contact.

He was placed on the sex offenders' register for life and given a 15 year sexual offences prevention order after appearing at Burnley Crown Court.

Under the order, Arshad is prohibited from holding, applying for or obtaining a Hackney Carriage licence, from working as a Hackney Carriage or private hire driver and from working as a driver of any other means of public transport. He was also banned from working with children for life.

John Gibson, defending Arshad, said he felt the conviction and its consequences very greatly indeed. The barrister added: "The fall from grace is considerable."

Judge Beverley Lunt said: "This girl was very, very drunk indeed but that just made her more vulnerable and you took advantage of that."

Speaking after the hearing, DC Helen Mercer, from Accrington CID, said: “People trust taxi drivers to get them home safely and to abuse his position in this way is appalling.

“I would like to praise the girl for coming forward to the police and for her bravery throughout the trial."