A respected scholar who moved to the UK from Pakistan in the 1990s has been jailed for sexually abusing girls aged under 14 while teaching them Quran in his home.

48-year-old Liaqat Mahmood, of Tamworth Street, Oldham, was found guilty following a trial earlier this year of seven counts of indecent assault.

He has now been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

The court had heard Mahmood moved to the UK from Pakistan in the 90s and was asked by parents in his community to teach their children because he was a scholar.

Mahmood started taking classes of up to 20 children and the court heard he started he ‘began to show an unhealthy interest in two of his young pupils’.

The victims, who were both under the age of 10, said Mahmood would take them into another room where he would kiss them and touch them inappropriately.

One of the victims said in an impact statement she did not report the abuse at the time because she feared no one would believe her as Mahmood was a respected member of the community as well as a friend of her fathers.

She went on to say has suffered devastating long-term effects, making it difficult for her to trust people, and has also caused her to struggle with her faith as the background to the abuse was being taught the Quran.

Eventually she told her boyfriend what had happened, and took the decision to tell the police.

The second victim came to light as a result of the police investigation.

Judge Timothy Mort said: “The families trusted you with their children, and you abused that trust very badly. This was very serious behaviour by you. These girls were presented to you for instruction in the Quran by their parents who trusted you, and you abused that trust absolutely with lasting effects.”

Det Con Javed Iqbal of GMP’s Oldham Borough, said: “Mahmood’s behaviour was utterly despicable, taking advantage of young children he was supposed to care for and who had put their trust in him.

“I would like to thank the victims for the incredible bravery they showed in coming forward and reporting this man, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to relive the trauma they faced at this man’s hands.

“I hope this sentence shows that no matter how long it is since a harrowing experience like this took place, we will do everything we can to bring the perpetrator to justice.”