A disgraced taxi driver who shared videos of two people engaging in “intimate foreplay” is appealing his three-year ban.
Andrew Tortolani was handed a two-month prison sentence last December, suspended for two years, after he shared the clips.
Three recordings were initially sent to 10 people in a WhatsApp group, but within days they had been seen “globally”.
Tortolani (56), who entered guilty pleas to the improper use of a telecommunication network, was fined £350 and ordered to pay a £15 offender levy.
A prosecuting lawyer told the court that in July last year a woman contacted the police to report she had been made aware “that a taxi driver had apparently shared videos of her and her date being intimate in the back of a taxi”.
He explained how the videos, which had been recorded after the female passenger and her date had been collected by Tortolani from a Belfast bar, had been captured on a camera facing back towards the rear seats.
The videos were not played to the court, but they are understood to show two people in the back seat engaging in a sex act, with Tortolani in the foreground.
When the male passenger pays the fare at the end of the video, he leaves a tip with the driver, who is heard saying the journey was “cheaper than a room”.
A lawyer said the people in videos “claimed not to have known they were being filmed” and did not “give permission for the films to be shared”.
Tortolani, from Sandringham in Portadown, was arrested and interviewed. He confirmed no one else had control of the footage, that he was the driver of the taxi and that he had sent the videos to a private WhatsApp group of 10 friends without any expectation that the videos would be sent on.
“He didn’t intend to cause any distress by doing so,” said his lawyer.
In Downpatrick court this week, it was revealed the DVA initially imposed a 12-month restriction on the defendant. When he appealed, it was upped to three years.
A lawyer for the DVA said it issued one-year bans for serious matters and three-year bans for the most serious matters.
“When this was first dealt with, it was deemed a serious offence, but that was appealed. Internally, it was considered a most serious offence and the penalty increased to three years,” he told District Judge Amanda Brady, adding Tortolani was wishing to appeal that.
The judge adjourned the case to next Thursday to fix a date for the appeal.