Man sentenced to community detention for posing as Uber driver, indecently assaulting woman

Tawfiq Alasaad

After 5 years of therapy for a complex post-traumatic stress disorder, a women that had been indecently assaulted by a man who posed as an Uber driver says that her view of the world that she had worked so hard to rebuild just shattered.

Tawfiq Alasaad had appeared in the Wellington District Court and was facing a representative charge of indecent assault. He was sentenced to complete five months of community detention, as well as 18 months of intensive supervision. Which means that he must complete all of these rehabilitate process that have been required.

These charges relate back to a night in March 2021 when his victim, a 24-year-old Wellington visitor, had left a party on the waterfront. She then ordered an Uber ride back to the address where she was staying and waited – but instead, Alasaad pulled up.

He told her that he was her Uber and had locked his his back doors so that she had to climb into the front passenger seat. Once she got inside, he locked all of the doors and drove off with her.

She had become suspicious when Alasaad asked her to put her address into his phone, when she noticed that the photo on the Uber app didn’t look anything like the driver sent to get her.

He had put his hand on her thigh while driving throughout the city.

He proceeded to touch her thigh several more times, circling around a tattoo on her leg, and touching a scar. When they arrived at the victim’s destination, she found the door to the vehicle was locked.

“That night, when I realized that man was not who he said he was, I thought that was it and everything I had worked for had been for nothing,” she said to the court during the victim impact statement.

“That despite it all, I was about to become a statistic and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Alasaad asked her if she was going to go to sleep and when she replied yes, he slid his hand up her thigh and touched the outside of her underwear and asked if she wanted to sleep with him. The victim managed to escape his car, and tried to pull on the back of her skirt when she slammed the door, prompting Alasaad to drive off.

His victim had told the court she is unable to take an Uber anymore, and had a panic attack in her roommates car when the child lock was accidentally on.

She said, “I still have nightmares, I’m always anxious and on edge and I can’t go anywhere without a planned escape route. My view of the world I worked so hard to rebuild has been shattered.”

She also had said that the legal system had been very difficult to navigate.

“Throughout this process every phone call was a reminder of how little control I really had. Trying to navigate the legal system as the victim I’m not sure I’ve ever felt less like I matter. We finally got to the week of the trial, nothing went to plan and it felt like it was never going to be over.”

All of these issues had been compounded during the sentencing when a miscommunication between Alasaad’s interpreter and the court meant that his sentencing would be delayed once in October for a pre-sentence report to be completed, as well again for several hours on the day of trial. On top of all this, there were even further delays to the court taking industrial action, meaning that breaks had been enforced across the court.

Judge Sainsbury apologized to the victim, saying that he appreciated the “deficiencies in the system” had made it difficult for her, but that they were not going to change the sentence.

“Those deficiencies in the ways we run the system can’t be an issue we take into account in the sentencing.”

He had also gone on to acknowledged that the delays should have been addressed earlier.

“That brings me to the second point – and it is frustrating in this case that this was not resolved earlier. It should be, that is the blunt reality it really should be.”

There also had been an issue in the language barrier between Alasaad and the Courts, with Judge Sainsbury stating that it was clear there had been a “lack of understanding” from Alasaad as to what indecent assault means in the context of the legal system.

“The word assault is commonly used in a context that indicates there is violence but when that word is used in law, it includes far wider behaviour,” Sainsbury said.

“To touch someone who does not want to be touched is an assault. An indecent assault does not need to be violent in the terms of being physically violent.”

Judge Sainsbury said even though Alasaad pled guilty, he did so “at the eleventh hour”, very shortly before the trial was set to begin.

“It seems to become clear back at the time the guilty plea was entered that you had been thinking you were not guilty of this charge because you had not hurt the victim by being physically violent to her. But somehow this meant this was not serious offending.”

The judge said he tried to explain at the time how misguided his thinking was.

“Sadly, women and particularly young women in our community are too often the object of unwanted sexualized behavior by others. They have the right to live, work and socialize in safety. They have the right to be free of unwanted sexual attention, when that attention reaches a level when you touch a woman in a way that you did in this occasion it is serious.”

Judge Sainsbury said that Alasaad needed “considerable work” in order to get him to truly understand the seriousness of his offending, and stated that intensive supervision would offer that opportunity.

“Considerable work that needs to be done to get through to you just how unacceptable your behaviour was and how it must never be repeated.

“Prison would mean you do not get that assistance.”


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