A taxi driver who raped a teenage passenger who had no money to pay her fare has been jailed for seven years.

Abul Malik, 29, stood with his head bowed in the dock at Lewes Crown Court as the jury returned a guilty verdict after deliberating for less than an hour.

Malik, a driver who worked for Streamline Taxis, raped the 19-year-old in a quiet residential road in Brighton in the early hours of June 18.

The University of Brighton student had been left stranded by two male friends who ran off without paying the fare when the taxi dropped them in Newmarket Road at about 3am.

The girl, who had been drinking, had no money to pay for the journey home to her halls of residence at Falmer and after an angry confrontation with the driver she made a tearful 999 call asking police for help.

But the operator told the girl the emergency services did not run a taxi service and suggested she walk back to Falmer.

But Malik followed her and offered to take her home. She reluctantly agreed because she was not sure how to get home. On the way he drove to Jevington Drive, Moulsecoomb, where he raped her in the back of his cab after suggesting she could pay the fare in another way.

The emergency operator who took the girl’s call has since been spoken to by a senior police officer and the force has started an investigation.

Judge Guy Anthony criticised the police for not offering to help her when she called 999. He said he was aware the controller acted in accordance with guidelines but said the system should be reviewed.

“This was a girl who gave her age, it was 3.30am, she was clearly in great distress. She complained the taxi driver was pursuing her and being horrible to her.

“That showed, at the very least, a lack of compassion. The least that could have been done is to say they would send somebody round.”

Superintendent Jason Taylor said the victim had suffered a “terrible ordeal” and promised that lessons would be learnt from the incident.

Malik, of Trafalgar Road, Portslade, denied rape and claimed the student flirted with him and willingly had sex.

The judge told him: “Taxi drivers perform a very valuable service in our community. It is quite understandable when somebody you give a lift to does not have the money to pay, you get angry. But what is wholely unforgivable is to behave in the way you did.

“The victim had been abandoned by her friends, let down in a phone call to the police and you tricked her into your cab.” The student told the jury she had been frightened during the row with Malik over the unpaid fare.

She had offered to pay him the following day and at his suggestion she handed over her shoes as security.

When he stopped the car she had been too afraid to scream or run in case he hurt her. “He said he wanted me to pay him in other ways. I was scared. I was crying and crying.

“I kept thinking the worst. I thought he might kill me. He told me to get in the back of the car. I just did what he said.”

Malik was unanimously convicted of two charges of rape and one offence of sexual assault. He shook his head at the jury of nine women and three men as he was led to the cells, where he could be heard crying out.

Supt Taylor said:“All calls to Sussex Police using the 999 emergency service are dealt with as the highest priority and are treated extremely seriously.

“We accept there is some clear learning from the way the initial contact with Sussex Police was handled.”