An Indian taxi driver who was caught on CCTV raping a drunk and vulnerable 17-year-old schoolgirl has lost his appeal bid to overturn his convictions.
Nitin Rana, 31, had been found guilty by a County Court jury of three counts of rape, and jailed for six years with a non-parole period of four years. He appealed against his convictions, claiming there had been a miscarriage of justice.
Rana told police he had had sex with the girl but that she had consented.
Court of Appeal Justices David Ashley and David Beach dismissed his appeal on Thursday.
Justice Ashley said evidence from many witnesses and the CCTV footage from the taxi revealed the schoolgirl to have been in such a state that she was incapable of “giving free agreement to sexual penetration”.
“In my opinion, the jury would have been perverse to conclude otherwise,” Justice Ashley said.
“The complainant [the schoolgirl] … as evidenced by CCTV footage at several locations, was shown to be gravely disabled,” he said. “This was no matter of guesswork. It was utterly obvious.”
Justice Beach said the footage from the taxi showed the schoolgirl lying slumped on the back seat.
“A short time into the journey, the complainant moved into the front seat of the taxi,” he said. “Her appearance accords with a description given by one of the four people who put her in the taxi as ‘floppy.'”
Justice Beach said that after the schoolgirl appeared to be asleep or passed out, Rana began to kiss her and remove her clothing. He then moved the schoolgirl into the back seat.
When later arrested, Rana told police the schoolgirl had been acting normally and did not seem drunk.
“She was speaking very naturally and casually,” Rana told police. “She didn’t seem drunk at all. I remember since I picked her up until I dropped her [off], she was all in her senses.”
Justice Beach said having viewed the CCTV footage and read the evidence given at Rana’s trial, he would have concluded that convictions in the case were “inevitable”.
The schoolgirl had been drinking vodka at a friend’s house before sharing a taxi with a friend to a railway station in Melbourne’s east at about 1am on November 4, 2012. Her friend continued home in the taxi after dropping her at the station, not realising the teenager had no money and no way of getting home as trains had stopped running for the night.
The schoolgirl accepted two anti-depressant tablets from a couple she came across, before swallowing two months’ supply (up to 60 tablets) of her own anti-depressant medication, washed down by the rest of the bottle of vodka she had with her.
A group of passers-by saw her fall over trying to cross the road and called triple-0 before Rana drove up in his taxi.
Rana, who 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.
The court heard he was driving a taxi to support himself and save money to return to India.