NZ Taxi Federation 'victim-blaming' in sexual assault aftermath - Louise Nicholas

The head of the New Zealand Taxi Federation has been slammed for peddling imprecise figures and "victim-blaming", after he claimed about 50 percent of sexual assault allegations made against taxi drivers were fictitious.

Taxi Federation executive director John Hart spoke to RadioLIVE's Mark Sainsbury, after high-profile radio broadcaster Jay-Jay Harvey's claim she was allegedly groped and propositioned for sexual contact by an Auckland taxi driver over the weekend.

Mr Hart said incidents of that nature were not common and "quite a high number" were proven to be false.

While he didn't have any concrete statistics on the proportion of fabricated sexual assault allegations aimed at taxi drivers, he estimated roughly half of the 10-12 allegations made a year are.

"I'd say maybe it's 50-50," Mr Hart said. "There are a significant number of false allegations made against taxi drivers."

He believed the remaining 50 percent had simply made up their sexual assault claims.

However, that assertion has been slammed by sexual violence victim advocate Louise
Nicholas, who said false allegations were much rarer than he implied.

"There's no such thing as a false allegation and [Mr Hart] needs to come get an education," she said.

Ms Nicholas said she hadn't seen statistics for taxi sexual assault reports, but claimed that in her experience, nine in 10 people who made false allegations were not lying about the assault itself, but blaming the wrong person.

"That is a very small minority," she said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Hart told Mr Sainsbury that a good way for women to defend themselves against sexual assault is to only book with reputable taxi companies, rather than "bottom-feeders, who just hang round the streets".

"If you've got a reputable company, you've got an excellent chance of being able to trace the driver, get the footage from the film and have a successful outcome from it," he said.

"It can be a bit dubious with these other little [taxi companies] hanging around."

However, Ms Nicholas said that remark was just another example of victim-blaming, and asked how a woman was expected to determine whether the taxi she was about to hop into can be considered "reputable".

Mr Hart said his scant knowledge of sexual assault claims made against taxi drivers was because the Taxi Federation is usually bypassed, with the organisation often finding out about incidents through police, media or the taxi companies it represented.

He explained police rarely declare a sexual assault allegation false and will often forward the case onto the courts. Mr Hart said these cases frequently have "a pretty serious impact on the life of the driver", even if they are acquitted of the offence.

"They have to defend themselves," he said. "I certainly know of one case where there was simply no evidence and it cost the guy $50,000 to hire a lawyer, and the jury threw it out in 15 minutes."

Mr Hart said he believed compulsory police checks had weeded out 99.99 percent of people who should not be in the taxi industry.