Councillor faces standards committee after trying to settle attack case out of court
A CITY councillor phoned a friend of a serious assault victim to try to persuade him to settle the case out of court, a standards panel will hear.
Amjid Wazir is accused of failing to declare an interest before voting to reinstate the taxi licence of a man who was convicted less than six months earlier of an assault which broke another driver's draw.
He faces the standards committee on Monday, when members will decide if he breached the authority's code of conduct.
The Labour councillor denies claims he is a close family friend of the convicted driver, Azan Ahmed, but admits contacting an associate of victim Mohammed Bashir in an attempt to broker an out-of-court resolution before the conviction.
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Mr Bashir claims Mr Wazir is good friends with Azan Ahmed's father Zulfacar Ahmed. The Hanley Park and Shelton councillor denies the claim.
But asked if he made the call before the court case, he said in a report to Monday's meeting: "Yes. I phoned Karmit Ali as a respected elder member of the community to see if he could sort out the issues between Mr Bashir and Mr Ahmed to try and calm things down."
The allegations relate to a licensing hearing in April 2011, when Azan Ahmed won back his taxi licence at the third attempt.
In September 2010, Zulfacar Ahmed's sons Azan and Kasam, and his brother-in-law Jameel Bashir, admitted causing actual bodily harm after attacking taxi driver Mohammed Bashir at Stoke station.
They were sentenced to a 12-month supervision order by Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, ordered to carry out unpaid work and pay £2,000 compensation. Mr Wazir voted against a motion to refuse Azan Ahmed his licence at the second hearing.
The panel unanimously voted to reinstate the licence at the third hearing, despite the chairman's opposition, after legal advice.
Majid Khan, Labour councillor for Etruria and Hanley, was cleared this month of failing to declare a prejudicial interest before voting on the same decision.
Councillor Joy Garner, the panel's chairman, said: "Councillor Wazir said very little during the panel but I felt that he knew more about the applicant than he said.
"At the election count, Councillor Wazir, Mr Ahmed's father and other family members were seen by the clerk to the panel and other officers together for a long time and were clearly more than passing acquaintances."
Glyn Cross, the council's principal licensing officer, said: "I was surprised by the decision of the panel as I did not feel that Azan had spent sufficient time away from the rank.
"There have been others in similar situations where the panel have said they are not a fit and proper person. Under the old guidelines, Azan would have had to have been conviction-free for three to five years.
"Although these guidelines no longer apply, I did feel that six months was far too soon."
Clare Clarke, deputy monitoring officer, investigated the case and will recommend that Mr Wazir did not have an interest to declare – in part because friendship boundaries are blurred by large turnouts at gatherings in the Asian community.
She said: "I'm afraid whatever my findings, Mr Bashir will not find the justice he seeks."
Mr Bashir said: "For me this will not stop because I want to see justice done. I believe there has been an abuse of power."
Last year Mr Wazir was suspended without pay for a month after attempting to use his position to get a friend's daughter into an over-subscribed school.