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Uber driver who sexually propositioned teen passenger gets suspended sentence

Judge describes 'violation of trust' by professional driver
An Uber driver was handed a suspended sentence for sexually propositioning a teen passenger.

An Uber driver who held a teen passenger’s hand without her consent while repeatedly asking if he could pay her for sex won’t go to jail but will have a criminal record for his actions.

Rabinder Singh Kang, 39, of Surrey was handed a suspended sentence and two years’ probation by Judge Tim Hinkson in North Vancouver provincial court June 14 after pleading guilty to sexual assault.

Hinkson described the assault as “a violation of trust by a professional driver twice her age” which was sexually motivated.

“A young woman entered an Uber late at night with the expectation of being driven to her destination safely and without fear. She was entitled to that expectation,” said Hinkson. “Instead, she was harassed, taken off route and ultimately assaulted in an opportunistic fashion by the very person entrusted with this task.”

According to an agreed statement of facts, the incident happened over three years ago on Jan. 27, 2021, in North Vancouver.

The teen, who can’t be identified, ordered an Uber ride shortly before 1 a.m. to take her from North Vancouver to visit a friend in East Vancouver.

Kang, who had been working as an Uber driver for about a year, picked her up.

During the drive, when the teen asked if he had any nicotine, Kang offered to stop and buy some, but she declined.

Despite that, the driver pulled over on to a dark street behind a convenience store.

At that point the teen began to feel uncomfortable and concerned for her safety, the judge said.

Kang asked if the teen would have sex with him and offered to pay her to have sex in the vehicle.

She refused and informed him she was not a sex worker.

At that point the teen also began surreptitiously recording portions of their conversation on her phone.

After crossing the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, the judge said, Kang deviated from the route displayed on his cellphone to an area the teen was unfamiliar with. She also noticed the locks on the doors were controlled by the driver, according to the statement of facts.

The teen asked the driver to “just follow the map,” requiring him to make a U-turn to get back on the route.

Kang again asked the teen to have sex with him, adding, “It’ll only take two to three minutes if you don’t like it.”

He asked if he could park in another location and again offered to pay her for sex.

While parked on an unknown residential street, Kang turned around and grabbed the teen’s hand and began rubbing it with his thumb, the judge said.

The teen was frozen with fear and did not pull her hand back for fear of escalating the situation.

He finally dropped her off at her destination after 19 minutes in the car, asking for her phone number, which the teen didn’t give him.

While Kang never made any explicitly threatening gestures, Hinkson described the atmosphere in the Uber as “intimidating and frightening” to a passenger who had been taken off route on two occasions.

The situation also involved a power imbalance and a vulnerable victim, he said.

In finding that Kang had committed sexual assault, Hinkson said it wasn’t necessary to find a specific sexual act had occurred. The hand holding happened despite multiple rejections and was an attempt to create intimacy to further Kang’s sexual pursuit of the teen, the judge said.

In victim impact statements, both the teen and her parent described how the incident had led her to become depressed and anxious, and fear that Kang would show up if she ordered an Uber.

The judge described Kang, a married man with children, as a permanent resident of Canada who is the sole financial support for his family. He was fired from Uber after the incident and has seen his income decline 50 per cent. Friends described the incident as not in keeping with his otherwise good character, the judge said. A pre-sentence report described Kang as remorseful, while a psychiatric report stated he was a low risk to re-offend.

The judge said he was nevertheless troubled by Kang’s lack of insight into his behaviour and “wilful blindness,” noting he had presented alternative versions of events to explain his behaviour, including the statement that he held the teen’s hand to “express sympathy,” thought she was sex worker and said she had initiated the discussion about sex.

The Crown asked for a jail sentence of between 4.5 and five months followed by 12 months’ probation, while the defence asked for a conditional discharge that would spare Kang a criminal record.

Hinkson rejected both, stating, “While I have rejected a conditional discharge, I do not think a jail sentence is necessary.” Instead, he imposed the suspended sentence and the probation term, with conditions not to be alone with any girl under 18 except for family members, to stay away from the victim and take counselling as directed.

The judge also ordered that Kang be entered into the sexual offender registry for 10 years.