IT IS “outrageous” and “frightening” that a taxi driver who pleads guilty to sexual assault can be allowed to continue to carry female passengers as part of bail conditions, the Dáil has been told.
The remarks from Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire came after the case of Mansoor Uddin (41), a taxi driver who sexually assaulted three young women.
Uddin of Castleway, Adamstown, Lucan, Co Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault on January 30, 2016 and two sexual assaults on February 16, 2016.
The case has been adjourned to May 8 to allow for the preparation of a psychological report.
Part of the bail conditions are that a female passenger is not permitted to be a front seat passenger in Uddin's taxi.
He wasn’t named in the Dáil but the issue was raised by Mr Ó Laoghaire during Leaders’ Questions being taken by Tánaiste Simon Coveney.
Mr Ó Laoghaire outlined details of the case and said the man in question had pleased guilty.
He added: “I accept that court decisions and sentencing are the remit of the judiciary and I will not be commenting on a way that influences that.”
He said he wanted to raise the issue of the safety of women.
He said: “Bail conditions have been agreed for this man that stipulate that he can continue to drive a taxi but that female passengers are not permitted as front seat passengers.
“Incredibly this man is still entitled to drive a taxi and carry passengers including women.
“This is outrageous. How can any woman feel safe in a taxi no matter where they are seated that’s being driven by a man who has pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault?”
He said it is “unsafe” and “absolutely wrong” and legislation should not allow it.
He asked what the government is going to do to ensure that people who are guilty of sexual offences are “nowhere near taxis and in a position to collect people”.
He said if legislative change is needed “let’s do that”.
He added: “It’s beyond unacceptable” and “it’s frightening that such a man could drive a taxi in Dublin tonight and it should not be allowed.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl pointed out before Mr Coveney responded that it is “highly irregular” for TDs to engage in any sort of discussion about a matter still before the courts.
Mr Ó Laoghaire said he accepted that and argued that the question he asked relates to legislation and who is entitled to drive a taxi.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl added: “Let’s all of us tread very warily here”.
Mr Coveney thanked Mr Ó Fearghaíl for the guidance.
He said he could understand Mr Ó Laoghaire’s concern but added “we do need to be careful what we say here in the context of individual cases”.
He said he wasn’t familiar with the status of the case.
Mr Coveney said he’d like to say more generally that the government is “totally committed to preventing and addressing sexual abuse and gender-based violence.”
He said there has been increased reporting of sexual crime to the Gardaí that can be seen in some ways as a success in that victims feel more confident reporting these crimes.
He said the laws surrounding sexual offences have been significantly strengthened in recent years.
Mr Coveney said he knows Mr Ó Laoghaire was looking for more specific answers.
He added: “I have to say as a father of three daughters it is important that parents and indeed young people can have faith that when they get into a taxi they’re safe but I think I need to be careful in relation to referring to any individual case”.
He said he would try to get back to Mr Ó Laoghaire later having taken some advice on it.
Mr Ó Laoghaire asked “in the abstract” if Mr Coveney is confident that the Taxi Regulation Act ensures people who are guilty of sexual offices are not entitled to drive taxis and if not will the government bring forward legislation in order to ensure that is the case.
Mr Coveney repeated that TDs need to be careful what they say regardless of what’s in media reports of court proceedings.
He said it’s a “serious issue” and “of course legislation should be tested and if necessary changed to ensure that people who are travelling in taxis are protected appropriately and that people who are given a licence to drive taxis are appropriately vetted to make sure that whether it’s women or men who are travelling in taxis are given the appropriate legal protections that they deserve.”