A TAXI driver was yesterday jailed for seven years for raping a teenage passenger after driving her to a secluded spot as she dozed off drunk in his car.

Liaqat Ali was told by a judge at Teesside Crown Court that he will also be banned from being a cabbie under a lifetime Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

Married Ali, of Abingdon Road, Middlesbrough, denied the attack during a trial last month and claimed the 16-year-old had forced herself upon him.

A jury of six men and six women rejected his account and believed the girl who said Ali had made her perform oral sex on him in the front of his cab.

The court heard that the cabbie picked up the drunken youngster and took advantage of her on what she thought was her journey home on March 2.

He stopped for the girl on Linthorpe Road at 1.30am and drove her to a secluded spot as she was falling asleep, said prosecutor Christine Egerton.

The jury heard that he forced her to perform a sex act upon him before driving her to her home, where she told her mother what had happened.

Miss Egerton said the girl was screaming as she revealed details of her ordeal, and was puling at he hair, which was matted with semen.

When he was first interviewed by police after his arrest, Ali accepted he had picked up the teenager but denied anything had happened.

A DNA test later linked him to the allegation, and he admitted he had initially lied, but said his passenger had initiated the sexual contact.

Giving evidence through an interpreter, Ali claimed the girl was lying about the rape, and she started touching him and sexually assaulted him.

Yesterday, his barrister, Paul Abrahams, told the court that the father-of-four is still protesting his innocence and refuses to accept the jury's verdict.

Mr Abrhaams described Ali as a “caring family man” and said his imprisonment would have a huge impact on his wife and children.

Judge George Moorhouse also ordered Pakistan-born Ali to sign on the sex offenders' register for the rest of his life.