A RELIGIOUS leader has been jailed for punching and kicking a nine-year-old boy, then beating him with a bamboo stick.

Gulam Hussain, 44, of Knotts Green Road, in Leyton, was jailed for 12 weeks today at Walthamstow Magistrates' Court after pleading guilty to common assault by beating.

The court heard that Hussain, who was an Imam at The Jamia Mosque in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, had previously been cautioned in 2005 for a charge of actual bodily harm (ABH) against an 11-year-old.

Chair magistrate Dr Paul Davis told Hussain through an Urdu interpreter that he was being jailed, “for the protection of the public”.

Hussain's mitigation was that “cultural differences” meant he had not realised the beating was wrong.

Rosalind Fox, prosecuting, told the court that Hussain punished the child because he had been misbehaving.

She said: “The defendant punched the boy on the shoulder and kicked him on the leg with the flat of his foot. The victim said he cried to get the defendant to stop.”

In relation to the second incident, she told the court: “The defendant took a bamboo stick and told him to sit on the floor, then he hit his bare feet several times causing reddening on the feet, which made it painful to walk.”

The court heard that the boy did not sustain any serious injury, but was embarrassed in front of his friends.

Victoria Burgess, defending, told the magistrates that the parents of the victim had given the defendant permission to punish their son in this way, so he didn't know it was wrong.

She said: “He believed that by having his father's permission made it acceptable. Clearly it doesn't and he realises that now.”

She continued: “The offence originated out of cultural difference - a misunderstanding of what he could do with the permission of a parent.”

Miss Burgess presented letters of support from mosque members to the Magistrates.

Chair magistrate Dr Paul Davis “We regard both offences as so serious, only a custodial sentence is appropriate.

“They happened on two separate occasions and the vulnerable victim was punched, kicked and beaten with a bamboo stick and humiliated in front of his friends and community. The sentence is imposed for the protection of the community.”

Hussain was given two 16 week custodial sentences, which were reduced to 12 weeks each because of his early guilty plea. The sentences are to run concurrently.

Spokesman for the Waltham Forest Islamic Association which runs the mosque, Tariq Mohammed, said the Imam was suspended when police launched an investigation into the assault, and he will no longer work at the mosque.

Mr Mohammed said: "We condemned his actions from day one. This man has done wrong and the law has taken its course of action, and we support the law.

"Due to these unfortunate circumstances, he will not be part of our association now, or in the future."

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