Judge’s warning against ‘unwelcome touching’

A judge has sent a deterrent message to men to keep their hands to themselves in a case that may see a former Christchurch taxi driver deported to India.

The 30-year-old man has admitted his conduct was unprofessional, but he continues to deny two indecent assault charges even after a Christchurch District Court jury found him guilty.

Sonny Bains, now working as a part time labourer, faces an uncertain future after touching an 18-year-old woman who was a passenger in his Blue Star taxi.

He had hoped to apply for citizenship in June, to reach his dream of a life in New Zealand.

After his convictions, he may face deportation to India, and that may pose problems for his fiancée who is also not from New Zealand. The relationship is continuing, and the woman was at court for his sentencing by Judge Jane Farish, three months after Bains was convicted at the two-day trial.

Judge Farish said he was still in denial, and there were no programmes that would address his “aberrant thinking” about what was appropriate in relations with young women.

She said the court “needs to deter men who think it’s all right to touch women in an unwelcome and inappropriate fashion”.

Bains admitted touching the woman he picked up in Aranui, for a fare to a hotel at Christchurch Airport. The incident was recorded on the taxi’s security camera, but without sound. It showed him repeatedly touching her leg, as she brushed his hand away, and then momentarily touching her breast with his finger.

Bains claimed the woman had negotiated a reduction in the $70 fare for being allowed to touch her leg, which he acknowledged was unprofessional.

Judge Farish said it had been “a dreadful taxi ride” for the victim, who had been upset and was now distrustful. Crown prosecutor Pip Norman said the woman had not provided a victim impact statement for the sentencing because she evidently no longer wanted to be involved. She had given evidence at the trial.

Defence counsel April Kelland said Bains had “seriously misread the situation in the taxi”. The case had been mentally trying for Bains and his partner. It had put huge pressure on their relationship but it would continue.

Judge Farish said: “Young women should not have to be concerned that when they get into a taxi late at night, they have to protect themselves from the taxi driver. It is an abuse of trust.”

She said that as soon as the woman got into Bains’ cab at 1.52am in Aranui on February 20, 2016, she saw that the meter was not on, and Bains’ identification cards was not showing. He soon began talking about her nice legs, and then began touching her.

As soon as she left the cab, she phoned her mother, and then complained to the police.

The incident had already had significant personal deterrence for Bains. He had lost his work as a taxi driver and had to sell his cab, still owing $2000 on it. He would have trouble getting residency, and he had to go through the court case.

She sentenced Bains to five months of community detention, and ordered him to do 300 hours of community work. The work could be done at an agency placement, if Community Corrections decided he did not pose a risk, she said.


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