An Indian taxi driver who attacked and raped a drunk and vulnerable 17-year-old schoolgirl he had been asked to look after and take home has been jailed for six years.
County Court judge Wendy Wilmoth said Nitin Rana, 30, who was found guilty by a jury of three counts of rape, had preyed on the teenager when she was in such an intoxicated state that she could not sit up straight in the taxi or even fasten her seatbelt.
Rana had been given $50 by a group of good Samaritans to take the girl home.
“The public is entitled to expect to be safe in taxis; parents should be able to trust that their teenage children will be safe in taxis,” Judge Wilmoth told Rana.
“This girl’s safety was entrusted to you when the people who helped her gave you the money for her fare, to take her safely home.
“Instead you violated that trust when you raped her.”
The teenager had been drinking vodka at a friend’s house before sharing a taxi with a male friend to a railway station in Melbourne’s east at about 1am on November 4 last year. Her friend continued home in the taxi after dropping her at the station, not realising she would be stranded.
The teenager had no money and no way of getting home as trains had stopped running for the night.
Depressed and suicidal, she accepted two valium tablets from a couple she came across whom she described as junkies before swallowing two months’ supply (up to 60 tablets) of her anti-depressant medication, washed down by the rest of the bottle of vodka she had with her.
As she staggered down the street, a married couple and two friends who had been at a 30th birthday party dinner saw her fall over when trying to cross the road and again on the footpath near an ATM.
The group tried to help the teenager and called Triple-0 before Rana drove up in his taxi.
The teenager was unable to say where she lived but the group found her address on a card in her bag.
Judge Wilmoth said one of the group gave Rana $50 to take the teenager home and he keyed her address into the GPS device he had in the taxi.
Rana drove off before stopping the taxi in Camberwell and raping the teenager. He then dropped her home.
The teenager told her mother the next day that she had been sexually assaulted.
Judge Wilmoth said Rana, who came from a well-regarded middle-class family in Hyderabad and had completed a commerce degree before working for several multinational companies in India, arrived in Australia in 2008 where he completed a diploma course in hospitality and management.
He was driving a taxi to support himself and to save money to return to India.
The judge said she had received letters from Rana’s family and two friends expressing their faith in him as “a good person, well brought up, and respectful of women”.
“The charges are very serious indeed, and in this case there are some aggravating features,” Judge Wilmoth said.
“[The victim] was a child, and at the time she was struggling with personal issues and had consumed a large amount of both medication and alcohol.
“She was very drunk, and this could be seen from her condition and behaviour before and at the time of getting into your taxi.
“It is clear from the verdict that the jury accepted that you knew what her condition was.”
The judge said the teenager had provided a victim impact statement in which she describes worsened depression and anxiety, and difficulties in getting on with her life.
“She found the trial very harrowing and it caused her to be physically ill.
“It occurred during her VCE year 12, and she missed a lot of school. She found it difficult to concentrate and complete her work, and she fears that her marks may not be enough to qualify for university.”
Rana was jailed for six years with a non-parole period of four years. He showed no emotion as he was led away.
Judge Wilmoth ordered he be placed on the sex offenders register for 15 years.
[divider] Source: The Age