Nazir Afzal

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Nazir Afzal

Afzal in 2016
Born1962 (age 57–58)
Birmingham, England
Alma materUniversity of Birmingham

Nazir Afzal OBE (born 1962[1]) is a British solicitor with experience in the legal areas of child sexual exploitation and violence against women. He is a practising Muslim, with outspoken views in favour of women's rights and against forced marriage, female genital mutilation and honour killings.[2][3]

Afzal spent most of his career in the Crown Prosecution Service, rising to be a Chief Prosecutor in North West England from 2011 to 2015,[4][5] before leaving the CPS.[6] He then served as chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners. From 2018, he became the Chair of the Corporation Board at Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.[7][8]

Early life and background[edit]

Nazir Afzal was born in Birmingham, his parents having recently emigrated from Pakistan. His father and his father's family worked for generations in catering for the British Army, and one of his relatives was killed by the IRA at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.[9] His family is of Pashtun ethnicity.[1]

He grew up with seven siblings in a two-up two-down in Small Heath, Birmingham.[10] He was bullied and racially abused, and those around him saw no point in attempting to report this to the police.[10]

Afzal has a degree in law from the University of Birmingham.


Afzal worked as a solicitor in Birmingham from 1988 to 1991. In London, he became a crown prosecutor in 1991 and assistant chief crown prosecutor in 2001. In 2011, he was appointed North West chief crown prosecutor covering Greater Manchester, Cumbria and Lancashire. At that point in his career, he made it clear that "prosecutors are public figures and should be out there engaging with the people, explaining themselves via the media."[10] As one of the 13 chief crown prosecutors that cover England and Wales, he was responsible for over 100,000 prosecutions a year and managed 800 lawyers and paralegals.[1][2]


Afzal addressing Salford University in 2012

The first time one of Afzal's cases reached the national news was in August 1992, when the culprits were two supermarket employees who, following an alcoholic trip to the seaside, had sex in a crowded train back to London, and then lit up cigarettes in a no-smoking carriage. Afzal successfully prosecuted them for committing an indecent act and for smoking where not permitted to do so.[11] This case was cited by an American academic in attempting to understand the British culture of tact.[12]

Afzal's prosecutions include a 1996 stalker of Princess Diana.[2] On his promotion and move to Manchester in 2011, he was immediately faced with several high-profile cases. One involved a man killed while committing an aggravated burglary, in which Afzal decided that the householder acted in reasonable self-defence.[13] Afzal's team were responsible for the swift prosecution of that summer's looters,[14][15] a judicial response described by an academic as "shock and awe".[16] The Stepping Hill Hospital poisoning incident occurred that autumn,[17] and 2011 closed with the unprovoked murder of a student from India.[18]

Violence, control, and gender[edit]

Afzal is best known for tackling cases involving violence against women and the sexual exploitation of children. Until 2004, he had not been aware of forced marriages and honour crimes happening in the UK, but he was approached by a group of women with compelling testimony. They asked him to use his position to investigate, so he held a conference on the issues and set up a national database, cataloguing dozens of instances of potential crimes.[2] 2005 saw the honour killing of Samaira Nazir; as area director for the CPS,[19] Afzal was responsible for the prosecution of her relatives, and described the beliefs that led to her murder as "tragic and outdated".[20] He thought that such traditional attitudes would die out with the older immigrant generation, but by 2008, by which time he was the CPS's lead on honour-based violence, he realised that young men held the same controlling beliefs about honour and purity, and that education needed to start with primary school children to challenge this.[21] "I have talked to loads of Muslim women and I can tell you that the greatest fear they have is not Islamophobia or being attacked by racists or being arrested on suspicion of terrorism. It is from within their own family."[22]

One of his first decisions on becoming a chief crown prosecutor was to initiate prosecutions in the case of the Rochdale sex trafficking gang, overturning an earlier decision by the CPS. He suggested that "white professionals' over-sensitivity to political correctness and fear of appearing racist may well have contributed to justice being stalled".[1] He said "I do feel that there's a deficit of leadership in some parts of the Muslim community. They could be much more challenging of certain behaviours".[23] He attributed the attacks to "evil men", saying that the key driver was "male power".[23] A New York Times profile said:

Being a man, a practicing Muslim and the son of immigrants from the conservative tribal area in northwestern Pakistan might make Mr. Afzal an unlikely feminist in the eyes of some. But that is how he describes himself — and his gender, he said, is by far his biggest asset. "Women have been talking about these issues for a long time," he said. "I'm not the first person to take up this fight in this country, I’m just the first man, and that makes it a lot easier. I come from these communities. I understand their patriarchal nature. I can challenge them," he continued. "And because I am a man, the men in the community are more likely to listen to me."[2]

Afzal's work against grooming gangs has led to criticism from "members of the Asian community" and from the far right.[23] Regarding far-right campaigns to deport Afzal, he reiterated "I was born in Birmingham. They can deport me to Birmingham if they want to", and said "I think if you are getting it from both sides, you are probably getting something right."[23]

He used his position to stress that abusers were found in all communities, and that the vast majority of paedophiles in Britain are white.[24] In May 2013, he was responsible for the prosecution of disgraced former BBC presenter Stuart Hall.[25] He promised to turn the attention of the CPS to forced marriage in the Traveller community, which he claimed was rife.[24] Afzal put forward the theory, also proposed by Rochdale's then-MP Simon Danczuk, that one explanation for the profile of the town's abusers was the prevalence of Pakistani-origin men in the night-time economy, i.e. as taxi drivers and workers in take-away shops.[23]

In March 2015 it was reported that Afzal was leaving the CPS. A CPS spokesman said "Nazir Afzal is leaving the service as part of [an] on-going drive for efficiency" and that "there has been no impropriety on the part of Mr Afzal".[26]

After the CPS[edit]

Once he left the CPS, Afzal began to speak even more widely, and found a large audience for his messages, that violence against women infects all communities, that authorities are still unwilling to believe the victims, and that there is a deficit of leadership in the British Muslim community.[3] "Having prosecuted perpetrators from more than 60 countries and [dealt with] victims from more than 50 countries, I know there isn't any community where women and girls are safe. It's a power thing and power sadly infects every community and therefore our responsibility has to begin with listening to victims and survivors."[27]

He draws parallels between the way gangs groom children for sexual exploitation and the way Islamists lure young people into radicalisation.[9]

Afzal became chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners in 2016.[6] He resigned from this post, which restricted his political expression,[28] after the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 in order to express his views on the topical BBC television programme Question Time.[29]

In 2017 he joined the Complaints Committee of the Independent Press Standards Organisation as its first non-white member.[30] In January 2018 he was appointed, alongside Yasmin Khan of the Halo Project, as an advisor to the Welsh government on issues around violence against women.[31] He "has pledged to make Wales one of the safest places in Europe to be a woman."[27] He often speaks and writes about how much depends on the undervalued leadership of women in small charities, working to combat gender-based problems and extremism in their own communities.[32]

In September 2018 he became Chair of the Corporation Board of Hopwood Hall College.[8] Previous education positions included a Pro-Vice Chancellorship of the University of West London.[33][34] He is Honorary Lecturer in law at University of Manchester and Pro-Chancellor at Brunel University, London.

In December 2018, Afzal reported Tommy Robinson, the founder of English Defence League, after Robinson had interviewed the 16-year-old suspect related to assault on Syrian refugees at Almondbury Community School. Afzal suggested posting material naming the boy was unlawful.[35]

Representations in popular culture[edit]

When he was director of the Crown Prosecution Service for London West, the TV police procedural Law & Order: UK used him "for guidance on plot lines and realism" and designed the set to mimic his office.[10]

The BBC three-part drama Three Girls, based on the Rochdale scandal, was broadcast on consecutive nights 16–18 May 2017 and featured the actor Ace Bhatti playing Afzal.[36]


Afzal was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year Honours.[37] The Manchester Evening News reported that Afzal had "received the CPS Public Servant of the Year award, the UK Government's Justice Award and the Daily Mirror newspaper 'People’s Award'... the Law Society/Bar Council Mentoring award and was selected for the Asian Power 100 along with the Muslim Power 100 list."[38]

He was made a Fellow of the University of Central Lancashire in 2013 for "raising public awareness of domestic violence, forced marriage and 'honour' based crimes".[39]

In January 2013, Afzal was awarded the Services to Law award at the British Muslim Awards.[40] He was named Legal Personality of the Year by the Society of Asian Lawyers.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Nazir Afzal is a practising Muslim.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Nazir Afzal: how the CPS plans to bring more child abusers to justice". The Guardian. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "A Muslim Prosecutor in Britain, Fighting Forced Marriages and Honor Crimes". Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b Norfolk, Andrew (3 June 2017). "Nazir Afzal interview: 'Muslims are offered a cause to die for; I would give them something to live for'". The Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
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  5. ^ Paul Taylor. "A passion for seeing justice done". Retrieved 22 July 2011.
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  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Nazir Afzal is the Chair of Hopwood Hall's Corporation". Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b Afzal, Nazir (8 April 2015). "Nazir Afzal: 'Young people are easily led. Our anti-radicalisation schemes need to be cleverer'". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Taylor, Paul (26 July 2011). "A passion for seeing justice done". men. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Smoke stirs passengers unmoved by public sex". The Independent. 7 August 1992. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  12. ^ Weeks, John R. (2004). Unpopular culture : the ritual of complaint in a British bank. Chicago, Ill.: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-0226878119.
  13. ^ "No prosecution for burglar killer". BBC News. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  14. ^ "CPS statement following sentences in Manchester for looting - CPS News Brief". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  15. ^ Jones, Sam; Meikle, James (10 August 2011). "UK riots: More than 1,000 arrests strain legal system to the limit". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  16. ^ Sim, Joe (2012). "'Shock and Awe': Judicial responses to the riots". Criminal Justice Matters. 89: 26–27. doi:10.1080/09627251.2012.721974.
  17. ^ Evans, Martin (19 May 2015). "Stepping Hill killer nurse Victorino Chua jailed for life". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  18. ^ Carter, Helen (26 July 2012). "Kiaran Stapleton guilty of murdering Anuj Bidve in Salford". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Two given life for honour killing". BBC. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  20. ^ Butt, Riazat (14 July 2006). "'You're not my mother any more,' shouted Samaira. Then her family killed her". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  21. ^ Brandon, James; Hafez, Salam (2008). Crimes of the Community: Honour-Based Violence in the UK (PDF). Centre for Social Cohesion. p. 117.
  22. ^ Button, James (2 February 2008). "My family, my killers". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  23. ^ a b c d e Gentleman, Amelia (3 September 2014). "Nazir Afzal: 'There is no religious basis for the abuse in Rotherham'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  24. ^ a b "Nazir Afzal: 'We tackled grooming gangs. Now we have to confront". The Independent. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  25. ^ "Broadcaster Stuart Hall admits indecent assaults". BBC News. 2 May 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013.
  26. ^ "NW chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal to step down in 'savings push'". BBC News. 7 March 2015. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  27. ^ a b "Pledge to make Wales 'safe for women'". BBC News. 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  28. ^ Massey, Nina (31 May 2017). "Muslim police chief Nazir Afzal resigns so he can appear on BBC Question Time". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  29. ^ "Police chief Nazir Afzal quit to appear on Question Time". BBC News. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  30. ^ "Guest Blog: New member Nazir Afzal on his first Complaints Committee". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  31. ^ "Two new advisors to help tackle violence". BBC News. 2018. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  32. ^ Afzal, Nazir (15 May 2015). "The Muslim women fighting radicalisation". BBC News. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Annual Report and Financial Statements" (PDF). Thames Valley University. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  34. ^ "Hopwood Hall :: Hopwood Hall College appoint Nazir Afzal OBE as Chair of the Corporation Board". Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  35. ^ Parveen, Nazia (6 December 2018). "Tommy Robinson threatened with legal action over 'bully' video". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  36. ^ "Three Girls: what really happened in the Rochdale sex abuse scandal?". The Telegraph. 19 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  37. ^ "Queen's List" (PDF). The National Archives. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 July 2006. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  38. ^ a b Keeling, Neal (6 March 2015). "Nazir Afzal resigns as region's top prosecutor". men. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  39. ^ "University of Central Lancashire – Honorary Fellows". Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  40. ^ "Winners honoured at British Muslim Awards". Asian Image. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2015.