A North Shore taxi driver has been found guilty of sexual assault of a woman in his cab following a trial in North Vancouver provincial court.
Judge Patricia Bond delivered her verdict in the case Friday, finding 62-year-old Deepak Sharma of Abbotsford guilty of the offence.
Sharma had been driving for North Shore Taxi for 20 years at the time of his arrest.
The trial centred on an incident that happened during a cab ride on Squamish Nation land in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 2019.
The victim and a friend, whose names are protected by a publication ban, were riding in Sharma’s cab, a short distance to another friend’s house to pick up some beer, court heard.
The assault happened after they stopped for two minutes outside the friend’s house and the victim was alone in the cab with Sharma. She was in the front seat where, she testified, Sharma had encouraged her to sit.
Parts of the incident were captured by the cab’s onboard security cameras, which take still images every few seconds, but some of it was blocked by a sun visor, which the victim testified Sharma pulled down, blocking the lens.
The victim testified that Sharma grabbed her left hand and tried to place it on his partially exposed genitals.
“I pulled my hand away and I pulled the sun visor back up. And I told him ‘I’m not like that. I don’t do things that way,’” she testified.
In her decision, the judge noted the images taken by the camera in the vehicle showed Sharma’s arm over the woman’s arm when her hand was at his crotch area. Another image showed the driver’s hand between the woman’s legs.
Bond said it is clear the images show actions of a sexual nature.
The main issue in the trial was whether the victim had consented to that.
The judge said she concluded that all the evidence indicates the woman “did not consent to him touching her.”
The taxi driver, the woman and the friend who was with her in the cab all testified during the trial.
Bond said she concluded the victim was a reliable witness, telling the judge what happened in a “balanced” and “forthright manner.”
Although she didn’t remember everything, the woman’s evidence was most consistent with the pictures captured on the camera, “generally makes sense” and was internally consistent, said the judge.
In contrast, the judge said there is “no air of reality” to Sharma’s version of events, which lacked clarity, “appeared at times to be rehearsed” and were inconsistent on several points including whether he was sexually interested in the woman and whether the camera lens had been covered at any point during the cab ride.
“I do not believe Mr. Sharma’s evidence,” the judge said.
Bond added, “I do not find he made reasonably objective efforts to find out she was consenting to any kind of sexual touching” – a situation that was heightened by the fact he was a paid driver for a woman he did not know well, late at night, when he knew she had been drinking.
It isn’t good enough to “assume or imply consent,” said the judge, but added that was exactly what Sharma did.
A date for sentencing in the case has not yet been set.