‘You preyed upon a young girl’: Uber driver jailed for five years after raping teenage passenger

A Melbourne Uber driver who told an 18-year-old female passenger he could “make her ride cheaper” before he raped her in the back of his car has been jailed for five years.

Hafiz Babar, 32, pleaded guilty earlier this month after initially denying he raped the woman and repeatedly claiming his young victim had consented to sexual activity between the pair.

The woman, who was in her first year of university at the time, had been at a house party in Melbourne’s south-east in September 2018 when a friend ordered her an Uber to take her home.

Babar accepted the job and the woman sat in the back seat of the car.

He began to drive in the general direction of her home but then pulled over and said: “Do you want the ride for cheaper? If you do something for me I can make the ride cheaper”.

The woman said she didn’t care about having to pay for the ride and did not want to do “anything like that”, but Babar kept insisting.

“You got out of the driver’s seat, into the rear seat next to the victim and continued to tell her you could make the ride cheaper,” Judge Christopher Ryan told the County Court on Friday morning.

Babar then began to touch the woman as she repeatedly said “no” and squirmed away from him towards the door.

Babar then raped the woman. She opened the car door and he tried to grab her leg as she fled, sobbing and distressed, to a nearby home.

She told a woman that a “creepy guy” had touched her in the Uber and was driven to a police station where she was interviewed and taken to hospital for treatment.

Babar was interviewed two days later by police. He told them he had picked up the woman in his Uber and she had been “a little drunk”. He claimed the woman asked him to move into the back seat with her where they kissed and she had straddled him.

After police obtained the results of a DNA test taken from the victim, Babar, who is from Pakistan, was arrested, charged and remanded in January 2019.

His student visa was cancelled and he was placed in immigration detention.

During a plea hearing earlier this month, the woman attempted to read her victim impact statement to the court but became so distressed it had to be done by the prosecutor.

The woman said she was plagued with memories of being raped. In the days after the incident she was overwhelmed with fear and shame, and spent days crying in her room “reliving what seemed to be to her an endless loop of the assault”.

She was overcome with anxiety and found it hard to leave the safety of her home.

“I still carry a large case of emotional baggage linked to this crime,” she wrote.

“The baggage I feel prevents me from forming new relationships, amplified by nagging thoughts of self-pity and embarrassment.”

The court heard Babar had no prior criminal history and had expressed sorrow and remorse for his actions. In a letter to the court, he apologised to his victim and claimed he had learned from his mistakes.

On Friday, Judge Ryan told the court: “To say the offending had a profound effect on the young victim is an understatement.”

“Your conduct was opportunistic. You preyed upon a young girl adversely affected by alcohol.”

“You maintained your denials in a second interview when presented with DNA evidence … you ran a contested committal. These matters depreciate to some extent the expressions of remorse, shame and sorrow.”

The judge described the rape as a “serious example of offending of this kind” and said Babar’s crimes must be publicly denounced.

”The conduct had a profound effect on the victim and I am of a view the effects on your victim will be long-lasting upon her,” he said.

He said he believed Babar had good prospects for rehabilitation and took into account the man’s diagnosis of depression, PTSD and his ongoing anxiety due to his isolation from his family in Pakistan.

Judge Ryan sentenced the man to five years in prison with a non-parole period of three years.

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