London: An Indian-origin police constable in the United Kingdom has been sentenced to three years in jail for falsely accusing a man of sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl.
Hitesh Lakhani, a Metropolitan Police officer, accused a street cleaner employed by the local authority in west London of the child sex assault after an argument over cleaning up his garden hedges.
The 42-year-old off-duty cop called the police in September 2018 to say he had seen a man beckon a child around five years old into some bushes while her mother walked ahead on a residential street in Uxbridge area of suburban London.
He was sentenced for perverting the course of justice at Kingston Crown Court on Friday after a trial at the same court, which concluded last month to find the allegation was untrue.
"I hope this prosecution serves as a reminder that nobody is above the law," said David Davies, a Senior Crown Prosecutor with the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
"The most worrying aspect of this case was that Lakhani, as a police officer, presented as a credible witness to a serious allegation where there was an identified suspect. The implications for this victim could have been profound, but we were able to prove Lakhani's account was entirely fictional and unfounded," he said.
Lakhani had claimed to have seen the accused man pull his shorts down and place the little girl's hand on him, before her mother noticed she was missing and called out to her, allowing her to escape.
Lakhani said he confronted the offender and took a photograph of him. He presented the photo to police when they arrived to take a statement from him.
The image was circulated across the local police's social media feeds in order to identify the culprit of the alleged assault. It called on the public to contact Crimestoppers if they recognised the man.
Upon further investigation by the police, CCTV evidence from a neighbouring house proved the sexual assault could not have happened.
"This was a baseless accusation against a hard-working man by a serving police officer," Davies said.
"Hitesh Lakhani called 101 alleging he had witnessed a sexual assault that he knew did not happen. This was a spiteful act over a disagreement about hedge trimmings in his front garden spilling on to the street.
"A police investigation found no trace of sexual crimes being reported in the vicinity, various inaccuracies in Lakhani's account and CCTV evidence from a neighbouring house, which proved the sexual assault could not have happened," Davies added.