28 May 2015

Man in court over taxi-riding incident

6:08 pm on 28 May 2015

An Auckland taxi driver says normally drunken passengers wind down their windows to yell out or be sick - not climb on to the roof while crossing the city's Harbour Bridge.

taxi sign on car

Photo: 123RF

Johnny Bennett faced a judge alone trial today, charged with criminal nuisance.

Chirag Kharbanda was the taxi driver who picked Mr Bennett and two friends up from Fort St in March 2013. He said the men, aged in their 20s, appeared to be drunk.

He told the North Shore District Court he took them to Silverdale, north of Auckland.

Mr Kharbanda said on the way, as he started to drive up the Harbour Bridge, the passenger in the front seat wound down his window.

He said this was normal, and often drunk passengers wind down their windows to yell out or be sick.

But he said the man climbed out the open window on to the roof of his taxi.

Another passenger filmed the incident on his cell phone and the video was eventually posted online.

Mr Kharbanda described being shocked, but said he didn't kick the men out because there was nowhere to pull over, he wanted the fare, worth over $100, and he was worried the men might become aggressive.

But later, under cross-examination, he conceded that he may have had a beer with the men when he dropped them off.

Mr Kharbanda said it was a dangerous thing to do and he was grateful nothing happened.

Mr Bennett's lawyer told the court the only person put in any danger was his client.

He said it was in the early hours of a Sunday morning and no one was around.

Judge Lawrence Hinton said he believed there were people put in danger: not just Mr Bennett, but the passengers and the driver who were clearly distracted.

The judge said the taxi driver appeared to be driving at 80km when Mr Bennett climbed on to the roof, and that it appeared to be a dangerous and reckless act.

Judge Hinton said he wanted to deliver a decision there and then but Mr Moroney asked to be allowed to file closing submissions.

Judge Hinton allowed that, and the case will be called back in July.