herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Taxi driver must take the stand over grope charge

A JUDGE has refused to dismiss the case against a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger despite flaws in the prosecution's case against him.

Judge Catherine Murphy said Mourad Benkouider (38) had a case to answer and will now have to take the stand himself.

Benkouider is accused of groping a 24-year-old woman in his cab while taking her home from a night out.

Judge Murphy said the State had established a case against him through the testimony of the alleged victim herself. This was in spite of other missing evidence, such as most of the custody record covering the night of the accused's detention at Clontarf Garda Station.

Statements had also been destroyed in flooding at Bandon Garda Station, Co Cork in 2009.

Benkouider, of Hollywell, Upper Kilmacud Road, Dundrum, is pleading not guilty to sexually assaulting the woman in May, 2008.

The State closed its case at Dublin District Court last week and Judge Murphy adjourned it to review the evidence and consider defence solicitor Chris Horrigan's application for a dismissal on six grounds.

"I cannot say this has been an easy decision," she said. "I have considered and reconsidered the evidence and submissions and have concluded that the defendant has a case to answer."

The court heard previously the alleged victim had been out with work colleagues on May 10, 2008 before she hailed the defendant's taxi at Harcourt Street. As they talked, she said, he asked her to get into the front passenger seat because he could not hear her.

When she did so, he started asking her more personal questions, including whether she had a boyfriend, it is alleged.

The court heard she pushed him away, but he allegedly put his hand down her top, "toward her chest area" and told her she had "a warm heart".

Benkouider is denying that he touched the woman in any way. He is maintaining the alleged sexual assault "just didn't happen".

aphelan@herald.ie

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