A judge has called for a mechanism to be set up to stop taxi drivers convicted of sexual offences from getting back behind the wheel.
Deputy High Court judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi made the recommendation as he refused to overturn the conviction of Chan Ka-lok, 52, who was jailed for 18 months for indecently assaulting a drunk female passenger.
The judge noted that taxi driving was a special industry, with the Court of Appeal observing in 1993 that drivers working overnight shifts were particularly susceptible to robbery. The law therefore offered protection in the form of heavier sentences, starting at seven years’ imprisonment, for anyone found guilty of attacking a cabbie.
“By the same token, the court should give different considerations in determining cases of taxi drivers breaking the law,” he wrote. “After all, the victims had voluntarily boarded the taxi, due to trust towards the taxi drivers.”
There is currently no mechanism to prevent a taxi driver convicted of a sexual offence from resuming his trade.
The case centred on a taxi ride in the small hours of August 29, 2015, when the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, boarded Chan’s taxi in Wan Chai for a trip to Siu Sai Wan.
After getting into the vehicle with the help of two friends she fell asleep.
When she woke up again, the driver had parked the car in Chai Wan and had sat next to her in the passenger seat – with his hand slipped under her bra.
He then got out the car, only to walk to the other door to pull out his passenger. “You’re so troublesome, I won’t drive you,” he said before driving off.
The woman ran for five minutes before finding a stranger to call police as she had lost her phone.
Trial magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan said it was not an ordinary case of indecent assault because the offence was aggravated by the fact Chan was a professional driver.
His defence lawyer argued in appeal that Cheung had incorrectly ruled the woman’s evidence as credible while rejecting that of his client, who was an eight-year driver with no prior convictions.
But that was rejected by judge Chan, who further ruled that 18 months’ imprisonment was not excessive in comparison to the maximum penalty of 10 years.
“With a certain degree of trust relationship between taxi drivers and passengers, the court should severely punish the offenders.” he continued. “As a driver indecently assaulting a drunk female passenger, the starting point of sentence should be two years.”
But the judge added this was not a sentencing guideline for similar cases.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ban taxi drivers convicted of sex attacks, judge says