An Auckland taxi driver who twice groped women in his cab has been sentenced to three months home detention so he can support his wife and child.
Sandeep Kumar, 28, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault after he preyed on intoxicated young women who had trusted him to drive them home.
One of the victims woke to find him sucking her breast, while the other had her leg grabbed by the defendant.
“People should be able to catch taxis without the threat of offending against them. It should be a safe way for young women to get home at night,” Judge Nevin Dawson said.
“Your offending not only makes it difficult for young women to rely on taxi services but now also casts aspersions on all other taxi drivers; unfairly so.”
The first incident, which took place in September 2014, saw Kumar pick up a young woman from Ponsonby.
As she sat in the front passenger seat, the defendant reached over and began massaging her bare leg.
The woman moved her arm down to try and block Kumar’s hand roaming higher than her knee but it did not deter his efforts.
“She was very scared at that point and did not want to confront you,” the judge said.
Kumar asked her if she wanted to go “somewhere else” but she declined and he dropped her home.
Nine months later, he picked up another female partygoer from the upmarket suburb.
She told police he also put his hand on her leg before she fell asleep.
When she awoke, she found Kumar had placed inside her top, pulled her breast from her bra and was in the process of sucking it.
The victim immediately told him to stop and demanded he take her home.
Crown prosecutor Shai Navot said a Probation report regarding the defendant had some concerning findings.
Kumar had attempted to minimise his offending and “normalise” his behaviour, it said.
But the man’s lawyer Sam Wimsett said much of what his client had relayed had been taken out of context.
“He fully accepts he was in the wrong and said it was a bad period in his life and his marriage,” Mr Wimsett said.
“He knows he’ll never drive a taxi again, he knows that’s a fair result and he knows there’s been harm to those women.”
Kumar offered each victim an emotional harm payment of $500, which his lawyer stressed was “in no way an attempt to buy justice”.
The judge accordingly made a reparation order and sentenced the 28-year-old to three months on home detention at a Sandringham address.
Because Kumar was supporting his wife and 18-month-old child, Judge Dawson ordered he should be allowed to continue working in his new job at a catering company if that could be arranged.