A TAXI driver has been convicted of sexually assaulting one of his customers in his vehicle, minutes after picking her up from her house.
Brian Maguire (48), of Drumcor Hill, Enniskillen, strenuously denied that he had grabbed the right breast of the woman, who cannot be named to protect her identity, on the morning of October 22, 2016.
During a hearing at Fermanagh Magistrates Court, he insisted that his left hand may have brushed her shoulder, but claimed that any contact had been accidental.
However, after listening to the evidence in the case, district judge, Amanda Brady, observed that she accepted the victim’s version of events as the truth and convicted the defendant of sexual assault.
Taking to the stand at the beginning of the hearing, the victim told the court that she had ordered a taxi on the morning in question to take her to work.
She said that, shortly afterwards, the defendant, whom she had known for several years, had arrived to pick her up.
The woman said that, during general chitchat a few minutes into the journey, Maguire had started to cup his left hand around her right breast.
She said she immediately asked him to stop.
The woman told the court that she was “scared”.
“I did not want him to touch my breast. I did not give him any reason to,” she said.
The woman said that she subsequently wedged herself up against the passenger door to avoid any further contact, before getting the taxi driver to drop her off at a shop close by. She told the court that she had informed her daughter what had happened, before getting another taxi to take her to her destination.
During cross-examination by defence counsel, Ciaran Roddy, the woman described her immediate reaction to the taxi driver’s actions: “I was absolutely shocked.” She told the court that she felt he had “crossed the line” and touched her inappropriately.
When asked by the barrister why she had waited several days before contacting the police, the woman admitted that had been a mistake, but said that she had other responsibilities related to her work over that weekend. “I did what I thought was best at the time,” she said.
At the end of his cross-examination, Mr. Roddy asked the woman whether she had been wearing a bra at the time of the incident, prompting an immediate rebuke from the judge.
Ms. Brady told the court that she found the question “highly inappropriate” and asked how it fitted into the barrister’s instructions and his case up to that point. In response, Mr. Roddy offered an immediate apology to both the victim and the court.
During the prosecution case, evidence was also given by the victim’s daughter, who confirmed that she had spoken to her mother shortly after the incident, and the man who was operating the phones for the taxi firm that morning.
He told the court that the woman had made a request for another taxi after falling out with the driver. The phone operator confirmed that she had made a further call alleging that the driver had touched her breast.
He told the court that he didn’t investigate the allegation at the time as the boss of the taxi firm was away for the weekend.
The witness also said that the woman had fallen out with previous drivers.
When he came to take to the stand, Maguire repeatedly denied that he had touched the woman’s breast. The defendant insisted that he had been making an upwards hand gesture while talking to the woman about another driver at the firm.
He alleged that he put out his left hand in a sweeping motion as he told his passenger that the other man was “not that bad”.
Maguire said he had “brushed his hand up” and any contact with the woman had been with her shoulder and was completely accidental.
The defendant said that, once the woman had accused him of touching her breast, he pulled over and apologised to her three or four times. He admitted that she was in “bad form” for the rest of the journey.
After listening closely to all the evidence given in court, district judge Ms. Brady observed that there had been an empty seat between the two parties in the front of the defendant’s eight-seater vehicle, adding that any touching “must have been intentional”.
The judge ruled that she accepted the victim’s version of events as “the truth”.
“Clearly something happened in the taxi that upset her,” she said.
Ms. Brady further observed that she was satisfied the touching had been sexual in nature and the woman had not consented. After convicting the defendant of the single count, the judge adjourned the case until Wednesday, May 2 to allow for the preparation of a pre-sentence report.