By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A taxi driver has been jailed for raping his vulnerable 23-year-old passenger during a drive from Melbourne’s bayside to Pakenham.
Shibu Paul, 46, was found guilty by a County Court of Victoria jury of the rape and sexual assault of the passenger who was feeling “very drunk” after a 21st celebration in Frankston in June 2018.
A well-meaning off-duty federal police officer had offered the victim to share a ride in Paul’s Silver Cabs taxi.
After the officer was dropped off at his home in a bayside suburb, Paul began his sustained sexual attack.
He covered the cab’s onboard camera and groped the victim during a couple of stops as well as the 50 minute drive.
Several times, the camera cover came off and was hurriedly replaced by Paul.
The victim described herself as frozen in shock and unable to stop him, sentencing judge Claire Quin said on 21 July.
Paul pulled over the cab in Cranbourne and took off his seatbelt. The crying victim’s passenger seat was reclined and she was digitally raped.
During the drive home, Paul asked her several times if she was happy and if she liked it.
In the aftermath, the victim was diagnosed with post-traumatic shock disorder, anxiety and depression.
As the chief witness, she was further traumatised by Paul’s “draining” trial.
While her friends’ lives were moving forward in exciting ways, she felt “stuck” and alone, she wrote in her victim impact statement.
“I miss the person I was and who she could have been.”
With no prior convictions, Paul gave a ‘no comment’ interview to police, and pleaded not guilty.
Diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, he had since taken part in a sex offender treatment program.
During the treatment, he showed some reported progress but an “entrenched” inability to feel victim empathy.
He reportedly required further treatment to address his “cognitive distortions”.
Judge Quin said Paul was aware that the victim was in a “vulnerable state”.
“You took advantage of that for your own sexual pleasure,” she noted.
The victim was fearful from the first time that Paul reached over during the repeated assaults.
Paul admitted to concealing his “activities” by covering the cab’s camera – a camera designed to protect cabbie and passenger safety.
“Members of the public particularly women are entitled to feel safe in a taxi taking them home after the night out,” Judge Quin said
Paul was jailed for up to seven-and-a-half years, with a non-parole period.