A Stevenage taxi driver who raped a 19-year-old girl after picking her up in his cab was jailed for 10 years today (Friday).

Tariq Mahmood, 48, of Archer Road was handed the sentence by Judge Richard Foster at Luton Crown Court who said he had committed a “despicable offence”.

Mahmood was found guilty by a jury in February after they heard how he had attacked his victim in October 2009 after picking her up from Stevenage Leisure Park. The father of three had agreed to take the girl home but had stopped the cab en route in Ripon Road and sexually assaulted her.

Judge Foster told Mahmood: “Any sensible parent would tell their daughter, particularly when they have been drinking, not to walk home, or wait at bus stops or accept a lift from people they don’t know, but to use a taxi because it will be safe.

“Taxis are licensed to transport you safely and you were in a special position of trust to drive her home from her night out.

“She was obviously drunk and that would have been abundantly clear to you so you also took advantage of a vulnerable young girl.

“During the course of the journey you got into the back of the cab and raped her and that has had an untold effect on her life.

“The harrowing effect was only too clear to anyone who heard her 999 call.

“I have read her impact statement and one from her mother and her life is at a very difficult stage and one must hope that time will repair the damage you have done.”

The fact that Mahmood had pleaded not guilty to the offence, forcing the victim to give evidence before a jury had considerably added to her trauma, the court heard.

Simon Shannon, defending, said: “This was very much out of character and very unlikely to be repeated. He has never been in trouble before.

“People have written testimonials on his behalf which show another side to him. His time in custody will cause considerable problems for his family who will feel the strain greatly.”

Mahmood must register as a sex offender for life and is banned indefinitely from having a lone female in a vehicle with him and from being alone with a female who is apparently intoxicated.

Detective Inspector Steve Keating said: “This case has been particularly traumatic and very stressful for the victim who has been incredibly brave in the lead up and throughout this court case. We hope that she will now be able to put this behind her and move forward with her life.”

He added that Mahmood may have struck before and appealed for anyone who may have been a victim to contact officers in confidence on 0845 33 00 222.