Saturday September 14 2013
– Women are being sexually assaulted by taxi drivers preying on lone females leaving clubs and parties, specialist doctors who examine rape victims warn.
Research by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine shows most victims – the majority of them “cognitively impaired” – have been picked up in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings.
in 25 cases over a three-year period, the institute found 21 victims who were affected by alcohol or drugs and another two were intellectually disabled. The condition of the remaining two was not recorded. All were aged 17 to 39.
Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said he had asked the Taxi Services Commission to work with police on the problem.
“Women should be able to feel safe and protected in a cab,” Mr Mulder said.
The former head of clinical forensic medicine, Dr David Wells, said some drivers were claiming the sex was consensual and offered in lieu of a fare payment.
Dr Wells said the industry needed to ban drivers from having sex with passengers, introducing an automatic-dismissal clause in employment agreements.
“It is a no-brainer really,” he said. “The taxi authorities must act now.”
It has been found:
– Suspect drivers have tampered with in-car security vision to destroy evidence. In one case investigated by police, the in-cab camera showed the driver opening and shutting the rear door more than a 100 times in a car park in an apparent attempt to overload the camera’s memory so that the vision of an earlier attack would be lost.
– Some drivers who assault women are never found because the victims cannot identify the taxi involved.
– Many cases cannot proceed because the victims’ memories of the attack are clouded by drugs or alcohol.
– Taxi authorities were receiving about three complaints a month from female passengers, ranging from sexually intimidating behaviour to assault.
Since July 2011 taxi, bus and hire car drivers have been checked on the police LEAP database, which has resulted in the Taxi Directorate taking industry action on 865 criminal offences, including assault with a weapon, aggravated assault of a female, assault by kicking, attempted murder, murder, indecent assault, rape, an indecent act with child and incest.
Late last month a 30-year-old taxi driver was convicted in the County Court of three counts of rape after he attacked a 17-year-old passenger.
Dr Wells said the institute cases recorded over the past three years under-represented the extent of the problem because many victims did not come forward.
“We have quite rightly drummed into people that they should not drink and drive but the by-product is that we are herding some into the pathway of predatory behaviour,” he said.
“There clearly is a group of taxi drivers who are targeting women at their most vulnerable.
“Women are entitled to know they are safe in all forms of public transport. Unless this is cleaned up, females may be tempted to use their own cars when they shouldn’t and end up in the mortuary.”
He said he had spoken to a disturbing number of women who said taxi drivers had offered them money for sex or who had touched them inappropriately.
The head of the sexual crimes squad, Detective Inspector Paul Binyon, said police were concerned at the sex assaults.
“There is an expectation that passengers will be safely ferried home. The drivers should be part of the solution not part of the problem,” he said.
The new Taxi Services Commission Graeme Samuel, said: “We have started talking to police at the highest level and will rely on their expertise to find a resolution to this issue.
“Driver standards are our number one priority.”
Last week Mr Samuel suggested that cab companies may be able to use different coloured taxis so customers can select their trusted option.
In July, the Gold Coast Centre against Sexual Violence called for the introduction of women-only Pink Cabs after taxi drivers allegedly raped two passengers in a fortnight.
The pink cab system of women drivers for women passengers has operated successfully overseas, including in London and Dubai.
– John Silvester