Friday, December 27, 2013

Pedestrian Safety "Taxi laws fail Women" Herald Sun Editorial Dec. 2nd 2013 Community Safety

Taxi laws fail women

VIOLENCE against women is a devastating problem in our community, and authorities are working to stamp it out.
The decision handed down in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal this month to allow a taxi driver a licence after he threw scalding liquid over a young woman, and was subject to two intervention orders taken out on behalf of his wife, is a setback for the anti-violence campaign.
Deputy President Heather Lambrick found that the man did not have a propensity to violence, that his attack on the young woman nine years ago was out of character, and the fact he failed to tell the Taxi Services Commission of his criminal conviction amounted to a misunderstanding caused by his poor English language skills and did not deter from his honesty.
The Taxi Services Commission — formerly the Victorian Taxi Directorate — was required by law to reject the man’s application for a licence when it came before it, and it resisted his arguments when he appealed to VCAT.
But Ms Lambrick found in the man’s favour and directed the taxi commission to give the man a licence. Rather than appeal her decision, they complied, and handed him a licence.
So the man is now authorised to drive taxis. This is a man who has twice had intervention orders taken out against him by his wife, in 2009 and as recently as this year. The common denominator in all three legal matters is that they involve women.
He was sentenced to nine months’ jail in 2005 for intentionally causing serious injury to a 22-year-old woman with whom he argued in 2004. He approached her, and threw a cup of boiling liquid over her, burning her chest, abdomen, legs and arms. He was given a second chance back then — the judge suspended his sentence, and attempts by the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal on the grounds it was “manifestly inadequate’’ were rejected.
Now, VCAT has given him another chance. The decision by Ms Lambrick, an experienced and senior VCAT member, was no doubt made within the correct interpretation of the law. However, the message that it sends is a dreadful one.
Ms Lambrick noted that his offending was serious, the woman’s burns would have been painful, and that he attacked her in a fit of rage after she had done nothing to provoke the attack. Yet she found that he did not have a propensity for violence.
To the layperson, the decision appears to mean this: A person who burns a young woman by intentionally throwing a cup of hot water over her, and who has twice faced the courts for the making of intervention orders, is not a violent man.
Several women’s groups, including the National Council for Women in Victoria, have been campaigning for greater safety for women using taxis.
This follows several cases of women being raped or assaulted by taxi drivers. Young women, many of whom use taxis to get home when they are out late, often alone, and often intoxicated, have been found to be vulnerable while in taxis.
Clearly, only a tiny minority of taxi drivers are predatory. Most are just decent people — usually men — working a tough job. But the industry has a reputational problem, and allowing men like this to drive taxis will do nothing to improve it.
The Transport Compliance and Miscellaneous Act 1983 is the piece of legislation under which VCAT directed The Taxi Services Commission to issue this man with a licence.What a pity the legislation under which VCAT directed the Taxi Services Commission to issue this man a licence doesn’t allow a clear message to be sent to men such as this one. Those who attack women, and require the intervention of the courts to keep their wives safe, should not be given a taxi licence.

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