Man jailed for sexually assaulting teenager in Bedford town centre

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A man has been sentenced to seven years after sexually assaulting a teenager in Bedford town centre.

Zeshan Akhtar, 35, approached a teenage girl on August 16, 2021.

The victim had seen a man unconscious in a flowerbed outside of Boots, Bedford Town Centre, and called the police for help.

Seeing her distressed, Akhtar took this opportunity to approach the victim and offer her support as he led her away from the situation.

Following a conversation, Akhtar tried to kiss her, which she said no. He refused to let her answer her phone and threatened to take it from her if she didn’t comply.

In an attempt to get away from Akhtar, she told him her age and even offered him her mobile phone number. He ignored her.

When she tried to run away, Akhtar grabbed her and carried out the sexual assault, he then walked her home holding her hand and then sexually assaulted her again only 160 yards from her home address.

Akhtar, of Wavendon Gate, Milton Keynes, was sentenced at Luton Crown Court on Thursday, May 5, 2022, after being found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and one count of assault by penetration.

DC Katie Tavener, from Bedfordshire Policed Rape and Serious Sexual Assault (RASSO) team, investigating, said: “No woman or girl should ever be made to feel scared and helpless.

“Akhtar took advantage of a situation to sexually assault a vulnerable young girl. When she said no, he ignored her, and no will always mean no.

“The victim showed true bravery by coming forward and reporting what had happened.

“We understand this can be difficult to talk about, but if you have been a victim, please report it. We have a number of highly experienced and trained officers and support services here to help. If you are ready to talk, we are here to listen.”

Police have a significant focus on tackling perpetrators of male violence against women and girls (MVAWG), and as a force, Bedfordshire Police are working with our partners to support and improve women’s safety across the county.

On Friday, May 6, Bedfordshire Police launched proactive police operation targeting male violence against women and girls in Bedford town centre. Project Firefly, which will start in Bedford before being rolled out across the county, aims to ensure women don’t have to face unwanted and unacceptable behaviour in places such as bars and clubs across town centres.

You can report any instance of rape or sexual assault to us by calling 101, or 999 in an emergency. You can also report online or visit our advice pages for more information.

You can also contact Bedfordshire Victim Care Services for free and confidential support, whether the crime has been reported or not. The experienced staff and volunteers know what emotions and challenges victims may be going through. They are specially trained to listen and give help and advice.

They also work with a range of specialist organisations and community support groups and can make referrals to help victims on their journey.

Victim care co-ordinators will also discuss the benefits of restorative justice, which gives victims the opportunity to tell the offender about the real impact the crime they committed has had on them.

You can also contact Bedfordshire’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) the Emerald Centre by visiting the website, emailing info@emeraldcentre.org or calling 01234 897052. They offer free support and practical help to anyone in Bedfordshire and Luton who has experienced sexual violence and/or sexual abuse.

Find out more about Project Firefly and the force’s wider response to male violence against women and girls.

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