A TAXI driver who preyed on a teenage party-goer and sexually assaulted her has been jailed.
Martin Johnson’s 18-year-old victim had been placed in his taxi after she had got drunk at a party in the Blackpool. But rather than driving her home he took the girl to the flat of a friend and went on to sexually assault her.
Preston Crown Court heard the girl could not have consented due to the fact she was drunk and had taken the drug mephedrone – known as ‘bubble’.
She was later found by another taxi driver on a supermarket car park, crying and partially undressed.
In passing sentence, Judge Norman Wright said most people thought a taxi was a safe haven.
He told Johnson: “It is clear to me your duty was you should have properly assessed her condition and taken her home or to a police station.
“It is a sexual assault that was within a whisker of an attempted rape. It was a breach of your trust as a taxi driver.”
Johnson, 30, of Loughrigg Terrace, Blackpool, was jailed for 32 months and placed on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely.
He had pleaded guilty to sexual assault over the events in November 2010. The court heard the girl was very drunk at the party in South Shore. It also appeared she had taken the drug mephedrone and her friends called her a taxi.
In the early hours of the following morning she was put into Johnson’s private hire taxi by a friend.
She was unable to walk properly and was falling over.
The friend told Johnson to take her home.
Kirsten McAteer, prosecuting, said instead of going directly to her home, which would have taken several minutes, Johnson drove the girl into Blackpool town centre and then on to the flat of a friend who was away that weekend.
Sexual activity happened in the flat, but the girl did not consent.
The prosecution said she had no recollection of being in the taxi or what happened in the flat, apart from flashbacks.
Forensic evidence linked Johnson to her. The next time she was seen was 3.50am that morning when another taxi driver, parked on a supermarket car park, saw her crossing the road.
He was concerned, went over to her and she flung her arms around him and said ‘thank you’.
In a victim statement the girl described how she has since suffered insomnia, weight loss and her confidence has been affected.
In a police interview, Johnson claimed the girl had at one point got into the front seat, touched his knee and told him not to tell her boyfriend.
He suggested she had said she did not want to go home as her parents would see her in a drunken state. He therefore suggested they go to a friend’s flat and she agreed, he said.
The defendant had also claimed there had been flirting.
He said she told him she didn’t want sex because she had a boyfriend and he said he would settle for seeing her naked, so she stripped and there was sexual contact.
Johnson said: “I accept I misread the situation.”
Sarah Booth, defending, said: “He says he didn’t realise just how intoxicated she was.
“He was under the misapprehension she was interested in him. He was shocked and surprised she was interested in him.
“The defendant has expressed remorse and regret. There was no planning or manipulation in what took place.”
Det Sgt Paddy Dowling, of Blackpool CID, said: “Johnson displayed a massive breach of trust in taking advantage of a young and vulnerable girl who was a passenger in his taxi.
“Throughout the investigation he has shown little or no empathy for his victim.
“Perhaps as he starts his prison term, he will realise he is responsible for his actions which amounted to a serious sexual assault.”