A Ballarat taxi driver used his professional position to prey on a vulnerable female passenger and sexually assaulted her at night, a magistrate has said.
Jagjit Singh, 31, had pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault, but after a contested hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates Court the charge was proven on Thursday.
The taxi driver, of Ballarat, was driving the “tipsy” complainant home about midnight on June 10, 2017, when he asked her for a hug, to which she replied, “yeah, whatever”.
After the hug outside the taxi, Singh kissed the young woman on her lips before moving down her neck to kiss her on the breast.
The complainant pulled away immediately in shock after the brief encounter, wondering how a taxi driver could behave like that.
Soon after inside her bedroom, she saw a love bite on her breast and started a social media conversation with her friends, who encouraged her to make a complaint.
In finding the charge proven, Mr Robinson said Singh should have known better in his position as a taxi driver.
“I find your conduct despicable as a professional taxi driver. It was not open to you to use your position as a professional taxi driver to prey on a young and vulnerable female in the dark hours of the night,” he said.
“You knew she had been drinking, you knew she was young, you should not have asked her for a hug. That’s not the charge but it’s appalling conduct.”
She consented to the hug but not the next step you took. For you to abuse your trust as a professional taxi driver is despicable.Magistrate Gregory Robinson
Mr Robinson said a message needed to be sent to the taxi industry that the law would deal with sexual assaults seriously.
Mr Robinson found the complainant’s evidence was credible, while he said Singh was an unreliable witness.
Singh participated in two police interviews in which he said he did nothing but hug the complainant.
“On numerous occasions Mr Singh was given the opportunity to say something had gone beyond the hug but he was adamant in the interview that he had not kissed her,” Mr Robinson said.
“Mr Singh was interviewed a second time and it was put to him that he had touched (the complainant) inappropriately and again Mr Singh continued with his denials.”
During cross-examination, Mr Singh said he lied because he did not have any experience with police, which Mr Robinson rejected.
Defence barrister Gordon Chisholm said his client had no prior convictions and had never received a complaint while working as a taxi driver.
He said Singh had stopped driving taxis after he was charged and would never drive one again.
Mr Chisholm said a conviction against the father-of-two would make it difficult for him to gain permanent residency in Australia.
But Mr Robinson said the offence was too serious, saying young people relying on taxis to get home should not be subjected to this type of conduct.
Singh was convicted and fined $7500. A DNA sample already provided to Victoria Police will be retained, despite Singh opposing the application.