Sundas Alam: Sacked probation worker's infatuation with boss led to her threatening Bradford West MP Naz Shah in revenge

A sacked probation worker sent threatening emails to Bradford West MP Naz Shah pretending to be from relatives of the manager she blamed for her dismissal.

Sundas Alam, 30, has now been sentenced to three and a half years in prison at York Crown Court after hacking into the email accounts of her former boss's wife and brother - whose family home in Bradford was raided by armed police at 3am due to fears over Ms Shah's life.

The three relatives were arrested and detained until it was discovered that the messages had in fact been sent by Alam, who held a grudge after losing her job with West Yorkshire Rehabilitation Company, a probation services provider.

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Ms Shah was dragged into the malicious feud because she was Alam's local MP and had been initially approached by the defendant for help, but signposted her instead to an employment lawyer.

Sundas Alam, 30, has been jailed

The court heard from prosecutor Thomas Storey that events began in November 2020, when Alam was dismissed from her role as a receptionist and trainee probation officer when her line manager, Sohail Nawaz, suspected her to have sent 'inappropriate' messages to him via the company's internal communications network. She then began contacting him by text message and through anonymous social media accounts, and made claims to other staff that she had been sexually harassed. She appealed her dismissal but in January 2021 the decision was upheld.

She then contacted Ms Shah, again claiming to have been a victim of sexual harassment and positioning herself as a whistleblower. The Labour MP agreed to meet her via Zoom due to lockdown restrictions, but then advised her that she was not the best person to assist with the matter. Meanwhile, Mr Nawaz reported her to police, and she was arrested in March but never charged in relation to her contact with him.

On April 3, Ms Shah was using her work laptop when she received a Gmail message titled 'watch me'. The address was that of Nawaz's wife, and included phrases such as 'I will kill you if you put my husband's job at risk' and 'I will find your children'.

A second email sent at 11pm the same night was titled 'acne scarred ho' and referred to Ms Shah by an offensive term, again urging her not to report Mr Nawaz's invented behaviour.

Alam was caught on a shop's CCTV sending the emails from hacked accounts

Two more identical emails were then received from the address of Mr Nawaz's brother, saying: 'You are going to die this week. You will get a bullet through your window. If you support that girl you are finished."

Ms Shah was so concerned that she and her children had to flee their home, and police raided the Nawaz address while his elderly mother and children were present.

They were released after 20 hours in custody when the IP addresses of the accounts were traced to two shops in Bradford where Alam was caught on CCTV using her devices at the time the messages were sent.

Police raided her home on Princeville Street in Listerhills on April 5 and found several mobile phones as well as the dress and handbag that could be seen in the footage from the shops. She made no comment in two interviews and was then charged with three offences of sending a communication with the intent of causing distress or anxiety and one of perverting the course of justice.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah had to flee her home

Ms Shah's victim impact statement was not read out in court at her own request, but Mr Nawaz's detailed how his reputation had been 'destroyed' by the feud and that many neighbours thought his family were drug dealers or terrorists after the raid. He had worked in probation for 12 years but has asked to move offices and his children needed counselling. The family had also moved house.

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The court was told Alam had no previous convictions but accepted two police cautions in 2014, one for forging a prescription in order to fraudulently obtain medication, and the other for a malicious communications offence. The latter occurred when she 'fell out' with a man and accused his sister, a social worker, of neglecting her children. She also made a false referral to Wakefield social services, who began an investigation.

Alam's lawyer Mark Barlow asked for leniency, arguing that his client has a mental disorder and was 'unwell' at the time of the offending. He requested a 12-month mental health treatment order instead of a custodial sentence. Alam has been held in prison on remand for 10 months since being charged.

However, Judge Sean Morris said that prison was inevitable in order to 'protect parliamentarians' from threats to their safety and because of the wrong suffered by the Nawaz family.

He also granted a 10-year restraining order preventing her from contacting seven individuals associated with the case and their relatives.

He added that he believed Alam's decision to deny the offences until Mr Nawaz had been forced to give evidence at trial, after which she pleaded guilty, was deliberate in order to make him undergo cross-examination.

"This was a serious perversion of justice. It went to trial and Mr Nawaz had to give evidence, and I believe that was your motive for going to trial. You wanted him to be under scrutiny, which shows your manipulation of others to achieve your own means.

"You were a probation officer of sorts, got promoted and became infatuated with Mr Nawaz. You have schizophrenic personality traits, PTSD, severe depression and anxiety. But you are of above average intelligence and you know right from wrong. These were sophisticated acts, disgraceful and shameful. You dropped enough false trails to lead police to your victim.

"MPs dedicate their lives to public service and there needs to be a deterrent. Parliamentarians must be protected by the court. This was cleverly planned and you couldn't care less. You have your problems, but many people have problems such as these."