CONTENT WARNING: This article discusses an act of indecency.
A former taxi driver has been sentenced to jail for repeatedly groping a female passenger while driving her home after a night out in Civic, despite her telling him to stop several times.
On Wednesday (27 July) in the ACT Magistrates Court, Magistrate Glenn Theakston blasted the actions of 26-year-old Rahul, who only has one name, saying he had been “almost dismissive” about the impact of his behaviour on his victim and could only see how his actions would impact himself.
“This type of behaviour is simply not appropriate,” Magistrate Theakston said.
“A mere perception that someone is flirting with you is not a reason to touch them.
“Just because someone smiles or is pleasant to you is not an invitation that they want something more.”
He said Rahul’s “remarkable” behaviour, which he described as “unpleasant groping”, involved eight acts over about 10 minutes.
The woman got into the front passenger seat of his taxi in the early hours of 29 November 2020. She was initially friendly to him, conversing with him, smiling and winking.
But he stoked her leg, tried to put his hand up her dress to touch her genitals, touched her breasts, grabbed her wrist and tried to put her hand on his genitals while he was driving her home.
The woman told him “no” several times, pushed his hand away and motioned at him to focus on the road.
Magistrate Theakston said it was a surprise to learn that Rahul, who had recently been working as a removalist, continued to be a taxi driver for some time after he was charged.
He said Rahul had been a professional driver and “the opportunity arose because of that trust”.
When a woman gets into a taxi in the early hours of the morning after being out drinking, she places a degree of trust in the taxi driver, he said, and that trust would include its driver not taking advantage of her.
Rahul’s Legal Aid lawyer Mr Chen said his client had thought there had been “a spark, some sort of chemistry” between himself and the woman.
He said the offending was an “impulsive and uncharacteristic act” and Rahul eventually stopped his attempts to engage with her in a sexual way when he realised his behaviour was inappropriate and “drove in silence”.
Rahul, who was born in India and is in Australia on a student visa, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing an act of indecency.
In 2021, the Moncrieff man had wanted to traverse his plea, which means starting a process to apply to withdraw it.
However, before he was sentenced on Wednesday, the court heard that he would not press ahead with that application and would maintain his guilty plea.
Magistrate Theakston convicted and sentenced him to four months’ jail to be suspended after he had served two months, after which he can enter a good behaviour order for 18 months.
He said he understood there was a risk of deportation, but had no evidence that it would take place.
Rahul became visibly agitated after he learned he was going to jail and the magistrate had to tell him to be quiet several times while he read out his decision.
“I know that at some point I made a mistake,” Rahul said before he was taken into custody.
“My first mistake I’ve made in my life.”
He will be released from jail in late September.
If this story has raised any concerns for you, 1800RESPECT, the national 24-hour sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line, can be contacted on 1800 737 732. Help and support are also available through The Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525, The Domestic Violence Crisis Service ACT 02 6280 0900, and Lifeline 13 11 14. In an emergency call 000.