Taxi driver avoids prison for groping woman passenger
A TAXI driver who groped a female passenger as he drove her home from a night out has avoided a jail sentence for sexual assault.
Father-of-one Mourad Ben-kouider (39) put his hand down the victim's top after making inappropriate comments to her, while his taxi swerved.
He was fined €500 instead of prison after Dublin District Court heard he and his family had already suffered "huge disgrace" over the case.
The fact that he is not being jailed means he will not be subject to registration as a sex offender. However Benkouider, a former chauffeur at a Dublin embassy, has already had his taxi licence revoked.
Benkouider, of Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford, had denied a charge of sexually assaulting the woman near her north Dublin home on May 10, 2008.
Judge Catherine Murphy found him guilty after a four-day trial in which he denied touching the 24-year-old woman.
The judge voiced her concerns over a litany of shortcomings in the prosecution, describing some procedures in Clontarf Garda Station as "sloppy" and concluding that at least one garda lied on oath in the trial.
However, the judge said she was satisfied from the victim's own evidence that the sexual assault had happened.
A victim impact statement showed the woman was not suffering ongoing stress. Defence barrister Chris Horrigan said the case had had a devastating effect on Benkouider, who was a "proud man".
The court heard the victim had got into Benkouider's taxi and moved into the front passenger seat on his suggestion.
Benkouider suggested to her that he would like her as a girlfriend because she was "intelligent and had a nice attractive figure". He said he was anxious to meet a girl with a warm heart, then put his hand down her top and said "that feels nice", while the car swerved.
Benkouider had insisted he asked her to get into the front seat because he feared she would be sick. He claimed that they had a "normal" conversation and he never touched her.