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Accused takes the witness stand in New Year’s rape trial
Tuesday 20th June 2017 @ 12:53 by Nigel P.
Ashton Business Dukinfield Stalybridge Tameside

 

Mudassar Raja who is accused of three counts of sexual assault including one of rape involving an 18 -year-old woman, gave evidence to Minshull Street Crown Court on Monday(19/06/17

Mr Raja told the court that he came to the UK from Pakistan in 1992 with his brother and father and settled in Ashton under Lyne attending school and then taking a course in computing at Tameside College.

Following completion of his studies Raja worked first with Park Cakes and then British Gas updating records of people who had to have meters inserted into their homes due to non payment.

He then heard that the job might being out sourced to India so decided to apply for his taxi licence from Tamside Council.

He has been a taxi driver working for the same company for ten years and the court heard was a man of good character with no previous convictions.

He has been married since 2004 and has four children aged between 2 and 12.

Raja told his defence counsel that he renewed his taxi licence every year and had never had any complaint made against him of any kind during the ten years he had been a taxi driver.

It was revealed in evidence to the court on Friday when reviewing Raja’s statement to  police of  his account of events on New Year’s Day, that police had taken the alleged victim’s clothes for forensic examination.

The court heard following the examination that there was none of the accused’s DNA found on the clothes.

Raja admitted that he had not had any formal training in dealing with drunk  passengers but said that over time you become experienced in how to deal with them “You make an assessment basically you take a look at the situation and determine what you have to do”

“One of the things you do if people are drunk is help them in and out of the vehicle.”

He was asked about New Year’s Eve 2015/16, did anything happen or was it normal “Normal.” he replied

Judge Sarah Baxter, asked him about the first time he picked the alleged victim up in his taxi what was discussed “What did she say? Raja told her: “She did not say anything much she said she did not have any money and needs to go to a cash machine.”

Judge Baxter: said:” So you took her to the cash machine, how far? Raja replied: “I drove her to Tesco, we spent 2 or 3 minutes there .”

Judge Baxter asks:” Then where are you then at that point” Raja said: ” At the cash machine, she wants to go back to where she was picked up.”

Judge Baxter:”Did you do that.”

Raja: “Yes she got out at Ko Ko’s.”

Raja then got another job very quickly after but at 5.22 am he got a booked job through his PDA system  a device which communicated jobs from his office.

Raja explained that at 5 22am he went to pick up the job booked for a female at the Millpond in Stalybridge.

Raja said: “ I saw a woman approaching the taxi I said its for (female name) and she said ‘yes its me’ she got in and sat on the passenger side the journey was booked for Dukinfield.

(It is accepted by both prosecution and the defence that the woman who got into the taxi was not the woman who had booked the cab via the company)

Raja continued: “If a passenger does not state a particular street I have a habit of saying where do you want to go?

Mr Batra for the defence  asked :”The passenger gave you money? Raja replied: “£5 she said she wanted to go to Copley first”

Raja then tells how they drive to Desmenes Drive, in Copley.

Mr Batra:”What happened there? Raja: “Nothing she says she is waiting for a friend, we wait there for three of four minutes then she says she wants to go to Dukinfield.

Defence Counsel Mr Batra asks Raja Why?

Raja stated:”She explained she could not find her keys and wanted to see the guy she was with earlier(in Armentieres Square) she might see him on the way. We did not stop anywhere we kept driving to towards Dukinfield”

Raja explained the indirect route he took to Dukinfield was due to taking directions from his passenger who “was looking for some one.”

Raja told the court: “ I said to her you are not going to find somebody randomly like this.”

So after a period of driving around Dukinfield  he drove back to Stalybridge with the idea of dropping her at her home.

During this time Raja said he was constantly trying to find out from the woman, directions to her address but the woman could not tell him due to her drunken condition. He claims he was telling her we cannot drive around like this and said he he would drop her near to where he picked her up.

He added: “ She starts directing me in that area, I was driving around very slowly until I realised she still does not know where she is, I said I will have to take you back to Ko Ko’s”

Raja’s defence barrister Mr Batra said: “ She recalls saying she wanted to stop for a wee, what do you remember?

Raja said: “We were going back to Ko Ko’s when she said she needed to go – I said please don’t do it in my van.”

Mr Batra asked “What did she respond to that ?

Raja said:“She said she won’t” we were near a car park on the way to Ko Ko’s we did a left on Castle Street and we pulled in.”

 

Location of Castle Street where a taxi carrying an intoxicated young woman on New Year’s Day parked up for her to answer a call of nature 

Mr Batra asked: “ What happened then ?

Raja: “ I said you can have a wee here outside, she got out from the taxi with the door open I was in the driver seat, she leaves the passenger door open.

“She was (crouching) behind the door, she was holding onto to it at the bottom.”

Mr Batra asked “What was she wearing ? Raja replied : “ An all in one”

Mr Batra:” What about this green or blue hoodie? Raja: “I don’t remember.”

Mr Batra : “ Did she have a shoulder bag?

Raja: “ I don’t remember I know she had something.”

Mr Batra: “ What were you doing?

Raja : I was doing something on my mobile phone I hear something like a fall I shout are you okay? she says ‘No’ I get out she is on the floor.

“I say are you okay she says ‘No I am not okay I need help’ her dress is down”

Mr Batra asked: “How was she?

Raja replied:”Crouching on the floor ”

Mr Batra said: “Can you be more specific”

Raja: “Her legs were spread, she was sat on the floor her bottom was on the floor on a concrete rough surface in a very indecent position, so I help her to get up.”

Mr Batra said: “ She was wearing an all in one can you help us with that?

Raja replied: “ I got her back up and zipped it back up.”

Mr Batra asked: “ Did yo touch her in a sexual way” Raja replied: “No”

Mr Batra pressed: “ On any part of her body?

Raja said : “ No”

Raja told the court that once he had helped the young woman back onto her feet, she got back into the passsenger seat of the car and he said he cold not recall if he helped her back into the taxi or not.

Judge Baxter asked Raja: “ Explain indecent? Raja told the court: “ I could see her upper body I could see her bra”

Mr Batra asked: “what is on your mind then?

Raja replied: “ I want to drop her off quick as I can make sure she gets back to her house ”

Mr Batra asked: “When you get back in the taxi do you touch her in any way? Raja replied: “No”

Mr Batra then asked a series of questions relating to the sexual assaults and if Raja had done any of those acts to each of which Raja replied “No “

The court then heard Raja describe how they then travelled back towards Ko Ko’s night club and told the woman that once she was there she could get out but she did not move. Raja’s then said he made something up to try and get the woman to leave the cab because she was not helping him get her to her destination.

Raja said: “ I said I need to pick someone up in Manchester you will need to come with me, she then said take me to the (a named Pub) in Stalybridge.”

Raja drove there and the woman was still trying to remember where she needed to go.

Raja said:“But her memory was not good, but I still need to get her home safe and her memory is not clear after waiting two or three minutes there(outside the pub) she said do a left.

“We did and driving slowly thought the streets we did another left and came to the street that she recognised where she lived.”

Raja explained to the court that the woman got out of the taxi with both feet on the ground and was talking about how she had not got her keys and her Mum is going to be very mad.

He described her searching in the front of the taxi on the floor and then under the seat and at the back of the vehicle. He said he gave her ample opportunity to look for the keys before driving off at a normal speed.

That account of the drop off contradicts the woman’s testimony, who stated that the taxi drove off at speed before she had properly alighted the vehicle causing her to fall.

Mr Batra asked Raja: “ Did you cause her to fall? Raja said: “ After all that effort to make sure she got into her house there is no reason for me to drive off too fast.”

Raja then switched his PDA back on and immediately abandoned plans to go straight home as he got a job in Newton that was close to his own home.

However once he finished that job, several more started to come in via the PDA so he reckoned he would work for another two hours so he would have to work less later, on New Year’s Day, which he described as one of the quietest days in the year.

He then answered his counsel’s questions on his interviews made under caution by the police and confirmed that they told him he had the right to remain silent.

Mr Batra:”Why had he not chosen that option? to which Raja replied: “Because I had nothing to hide.”

Mr Batra ended the questioning of witness by saying: “Did you at any stage touch the complainant in a sexual way encompassing all the allegations at any time?

Raja replied: “ No”

Raja was then cross examined by the Prosecution, Mr John Savage, who asked Raja to clear a “few points” for him.

Mr Savage confirmed that there is no issue that the victim stayed with Raja from 5 22 am until around 6.44 am when he switched his PDA device back on.

A period of 1 hour and ten or twenty minutes in the accused’s company.

Why on the busiest night of the year when the fares were calclated at time and a half did he switch off the device that informed him of potential jobs?

Raja explained because following this job, as it was booked for Dukinfied he would then probably go home.

Raja admitted to being motivated by greed in accepting an unbooked fare the first time he picked the woman up on Armentieres Square at 4.40 am.

Mr Savage said: “She was so drunk you had to help her in to the taxi, you did not have to take her at the end of the day. How much money did you ask her for? Did you ask her where she was going?

Raja replied: “No”

Mr Savage asked:”Isn’t that how you calculate how much money to ask for up front?

She was in the taxi for 7 or 8 minutes and Raja did not receive any money from the woman.

He dropped her at the other side of the square from where he picked her up. Raja then told the judge who queried his failure to take a fare from the woman :“ It was not worth my time to pursue it.” Judge Baxter asked: “so you just wrote it off? Raja: “Yes”

On the second time he picked up the same woman an hour later, though the taxi had been booked by someone else, Raja said: “It was not for him to know she was not the person who had legitimately booked the taxi.”

Asked again why he switched off his PDA at 5 48 am with the woman in the car. Raja explained that he switched off the device, when he was waiting at Copley and he had decided to go home after this job because it was taking longer than he had expected.

He said “ I switched it off when she started directing me around some streets in the area and she did not know where she was.”

Relating to the period when the taxi pulled on to wasteland Mr Savage asked: “Did the whole episode not concern you in any way -Raja asked“ In what way?

Mr Savage “She is really drunk, falls over, you get out and she is virtually naked”

Raja replied: No because I did not do anything wrong.”

Mr Savage said: “Did it not occur to you to contact your firm and say look I have a difficult position here, I have girl who is drunk and has taken off all her clothes on a car park, did that not cross your mind ?

Raja answered: “No because I did not do anything wrong, when a driver gets people who are drunk, you just try and help them.”

Mr Savage said: “You did not get help because you saw your opportunity to sexually assault her

Raja replied: “No.”

(Case proceeding)