A TAXI driver sexually assaulted a woman in his taxi by groping her breast and trying to kiss her.
Abdul Walizada, 48, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards, attacked his passenger while driving her home.
He was found guilty of sexual assault after a three-day trial at Hove Crown Court last Monday (February 27).
Walizada, who was a Hastings licensed Hackney driver, attacked the 18-year-old woman in his taxi in the early hours of July 16 last year.
The court heard how the victim had been enjoying a night out with friends in Hastings town centre.
She later walked with a friend to the taxi rank in Havelock Road at around 3am to get a cab home on her own to Bexhill.
During the journey Walizada asked the woman to get into the front passenger seat as he did not know the exact route to her address. However, once in the front seat the victim was asked questions of a sexual nature and had her thigh stroked by Walizada.
When she got out of the cab and went to pay, Walizada pulled her head towards him, tried to kiss her and groped her breast before she managed to pull away. Once back home she called the police and an investigation was launched.
Walizada was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on July 27 and remanded in custody until his trial.
Detective Constable Mark Waughman, of East Sussex CID, said: “I am pleased that Walizada has been found guilty. This was an incredibly unpleasant experience for the woman who got into his taxi as a means of getting home safely after a night out and had her trust abused.
“Her ordeal was made even more worse by the fact that Walizada denied the assault and she was then forced to give evidence in court.”
Cllr Phil Scott, lead member responsible for licensing at Hastings Borough Council, said: “We are pleased with this verdict. Sussex Police and the council worked closely together throughout the investigation and once the driver had been identified he was suspended from duty and did not return to duty at any time.
“This was an isolated incident and licensed taxi cabs are still the safest way for women to travel at night.”
Walizada is due to be sentenced on April 3 at Hove Crown Court.