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Jul 28

Taxi driver who grabbed woman between legs faces jail

A TAXI driver from Leamington who grabbed a woman between her legs when she got out of his cab following a row about the fare has been warned to expect an immediate prison sentence. Balvinder Singh had denied sexually assaulting the woman after driving her home, claiming ‘it just did not happen’ a jury was told. But the jury at Warwick Crown Court took just two hours to find the 56 year-old of Tachbrook Road, guilty by a unanimous verdict.

Adjourning for a pre-sentence report, Judge Barry Berlin warned that a taxi driver convicted of breach of trust by a sexual offence against a passenger ‘ought to go immediately to custody.’ Prosecutor Tariq Shakoor said that in the early hours of Sunday January 17 last year a woman in her 50s made a complaint to the police that she had been sexually assaulted by a taxi driver. “The defendant’s case is that he was the taxi driver during this incident, but that no sexual assault took place.”

Mr Shakoor said the woman had been out for the night, socialising with friends in Coventry city centre, and had visited a number of pubs, ‘having a normal Saturday night out.’ At about 2.30 in the morning a friend she was with, but who lived in a different part of the city to her, left to go home. “She stays on, and eventually she too decides it’s time to go home. She leaves a public house and flags down a black cab close-by. There is no dispute the defendant is the driver.”

The woman shared the cab with a male friend who was dropped off first before continuing to her home. But when they arrived there was a dispute over the fare, which was higher than she thought it should be, which Singh said was because of waiting time while they dropped off her friend. The woman became abusive, and called the police to complain about being overcharged – but although the operator told her it was a civil matter, the line remained open and recorded the exchange, which ended with her paying Singh £10.

She complained she could not get out, so Singh got out to open the door, and when she got out he then grabbed hold of her. “He put his hand between her legs, over her clothing, in the area of her private parts. She couldn’t believe what he’d done,” said Mr Shakoor. “If you are sure that is what he did, that is a sexual assault. His case is that it just did not happen,” he explained.

He said during the incident the woman heard someone shout out, which caused Singh to let go, and he got back into the taxi and drove off – and she went inside and, ‘quite distraught,’ called the police again. The jury heard a woman who lived in the same street happened to be awake and could hear the argument over the fare, so got out of bed and looked out of the window. “She describes seeing the driver grabbing the female around the area of her waist and holding her in what she described as a bear hug, pulling her towards him. “It appeared as if he was trying to kiss her. She alerts her partner who gets out of bed and shouts out of the window.”

Following the incident, Singh was traced and arrested, but denied the offence, added Mr Shakoor. In court, Singh said he had kept his foot on the brake during the argument over the fare to keep the door locked so the woman could not make off without paying.

But he said it was then she who hugged him, apologising for the argument over the fare, so he had hugged her back. “She said she liked me. I said ‘no, I’m married, and I moved her with two hands, pushing outwards to her shoulders, and then got back into the taxi and drove away.” He denied touching her between the legs, and accused her of making it all up to get him into trouble.

After the jury returned its verdict, at the request of his barrister Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, Judge Berlin agreed to adjourn for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Singh. But he commented: “He must realise this is a serious matter for which an immediate custodial sentence is highly likely, particularly in view of what is a breach of trust.” Singh was granted bail, but Judge Berlin warned him: “That must not in your mind mean that there is not going to be an immediate custodial sentence. “I take the view that a taxi driver who is convicted of breach of trust by a sexual offence committed against a passenger ought to go immediately to custody.”

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