A BLACKBURN mosque teacher who admitted using beatings and torture positions as a form of discipline was a ‘systematic bully’.

Judge Robert Altham QC told Irfan Patel, 33, that lying to the police and accusing his four male victims aged just nine and 10 of conspiring against him made his behaviour even worse.

Preston Crown Court heard Patel, of Pelham Street, Blackburn, used physical violence to discipline four boys during two-hour daily lessons when they misbehaved, made mistakes in their work or were unable to recite the Koran.

The father-of-two who trained as a teacher in India, but has no formally recognised qualifications in the UK, admitted four counts of cruelty to a person under the age of 16.

All the charges relate to his time working as a volunteer teacher at a Blackburn madrasa, which cannot be named for legal reasons, between January 1, 2011 and October 19, 2011.

Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West area, said: “Irfan Patel was in a position of trust to the children in his class and his actions went far beyond what was acceptable in disciplining those in his care. His treatment of the children to whom he was supposed to be providing spiritual teaching and guidance amounted to systematic bullying. They were very young boys who should have expected to be safe when they attended classes at the mosque.

“The punishment that Irfan Patel used was not appropriate chastisement, it was assault and bullying and it is a crime. I hope that this case and other convictions of teachers for assaulting pupils in mosques will give young people and their parents the confidence to report this sort of bullying and ill treatment.“ Judge Altham sentenced Patel to 40 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months, as well as making him the subject of an 18-month supervision order and a life ban on working with children.

He was also ordered to pay £1,200 in court costs.

Judge Altham praised the bravery of Patel’s main victim after he raised the alarm by informing a police community support officer about what was happening.

The court heard Patel, who has since become a ‘pariah’ in his community, used to strike the children around the back of the head and neck as well as on the back with his fists during religious lessons.

Patel, who had signed a child protection agreement before beginning teaching at the mosque, was told to follow a strict ‘no touch’ policy.

Prosecutor Sophie Cartwright also said Patel, of Pelham Street, Blackburn, forced the children to adopt 'awkward' positions, including the chicken position, a well known torture tactic used in war zones.

Other positions included forcing the boys to crouch down while holding their ears and standing for long periods of time touching their toes.

Mohammed Nawaz, for Patel, said he blamed his actions on the stress of his sister and brother-in-law’s murder in 2009.

Abdullah and Ayesha Mohammed died after their home was firebombed in a case of mistaken identity.

A liquid, thought to be petrol, was poured through their letterbox at 175 London Road, Blackburn, and ignited in the early hours of October 21, 2009.

The couple were overcome by smoke and died in hospital just days after the attack.

The court heard Patel, a supervisor at a bakery, had been supporting his family including his nephew since the killing.

An investigation by social services to see if Patel was fit to care for his two young daughters aged four and seven, found his children were happy, normal and well cared for, the court heard.

Speaking after the hearing Sgt John Rigby, from Lancashire Police's community cohesion unit, said: "All allegations of abuse involving young people are vigorously investigated by the police in co-operation with children services.

“On this occasion Irfan Patel fell below the high standards expected of a voluntary religious teacher in charge of young people. His guilty plea has avoided four young people all under the age of 11 having to give evidence at court.

"Lancashire Constabulary and Blackburn with Darwen Children Services continue to support and provide guidance to the voluntary sector teachers in protecting children."