Never to return: Uber driver deported for sex assault

A PREDATORY Uber driver who told an 18-year-old woman "don't cry" before sexually assaulting in his car will be deported after receiving a suspended jail sentence.

Indian-trained pharmacist Navjot Panju, 29, today pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to the sexual assault of the 18-year-old woman nearby Fortitude Valley in December last year.

He was sentenced to seven months' jail, suspended for 18 months.

The court heard the victim had been in the man's Uber one week earlier when he offered her his phone number and told her to call him directly for a cheaper ride, saying she could pay cash.

She contacted Panju him on December 3, 2018, and asked him to take her to Fortitude Valley in exchange for cash, the court was told.

"At 3.20am in the morning the defendant picked her up from an address in Redcliffe and drove her towards Fortitude Valley," Crown prosecutor Kristyn Hales told the court.

"The victim was seated in the front passenger seat, and not long into the journey the defendant put his hand on her thigh.

"She told him not to touch her, he moved his hand up her thigh and tried to put his hand down her underwear.

"She began to cry and he told her, 'Don't cry.'

"Soon after the defendant pulled his pants down and pulled his penis out.

"He tried to move her hand towards his penis but she pulled her hand away."

The court heard the woman had messaged her friend, who called police.

Ms Hales said Panju drove past the exit for Fortitude Valley and half an hour later he dropped the victim in Fortitude Valley and pulled his pants up.

Panju, who has already served 44 days in immigration detention after being found with an expired visa, will be deported to India.

Panju's defence barrister Michael Smith said the man travelled to Australia with his wife in 2014 for her postgraduate studies.

He trained as a pharmacist in India but never worked in the role in Australia, the court heard.

"My client worked as an Uber driver for a significant period of time, he has no criminal history, he is incredibly remorseful…he fully appreciates the wrong he has done," he said.

Magistrate Michael Quinn said the incident was a serious offence.

"You imposed or attempted to impose yourself on an innocent female, a vulnerable woman…you touched her for a period of time on her leg, she made it clear she did not want any sexual activity with you - she was terrified," he said.

"She was essentially trapped in your car and you had control.

"Your behaviour did not stop at rubbing the leg of this totally vulnerable woman, you then exposed yourself and took down your pants - a further disgusting act from a male to a female… you were rebuffed but you continued to act in this domineering, disgraceful and unforgivable way to a woman."

Mr Quinn said Panju was an intelligent man with a pharmacy degree and he knew "precisely what you were doing in this occasion".

"You will never be allowed to return to this country - there are many people in this country that would be satisfied that you should not return to Australia," he said.

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