Rape-accused Bendigo taxi driver denied bail

A FORMER Bendigo taxi driver accused of raping three women will spend Christmas in jail after making an unsuccessful bail application in the Bendigo Magistrates Court yesterday.

Robert McNeil Byrnes has been charged with a series of sex offences including four counts of rape, but has indicated he will pursue the defence of consent on at least some of the charges.

Detective Leading Senior Constable Robert Goodman said Byrnes’ alleged victims were “sick” at the thought he could be released.

“They have sought counselling and their recovery is a lot quicker knowing they can sleep at night knowing the accused is in custody,” he said.

Acting Sergeant Lindsay Riley said police strongly opposed bail on the grounds Byrnes was an unacceptable risk of interfering with witnesses and committing further offending. 

Acting Sergeant Riley said someone with access to Byrne’s charge sheets had been posting the victim’s names online.

Magistrate Jennifer Tregent said that was “absolutely appalling”.

The court heard Byrnes had so far refused to be interviewed by police, once refusing to enter the interview room, another time refusing to listen to the allegations put to him. 

Police allege two of Byrnes’ victims were passengers in his taxi when they were attacked in March and October.

The third complainant claimed Byrnes forced entry into her house where he sexually assaulted her in April.

“He has been taking advantage of women in vulnerable situations,” Detective Goodman said.

“He would hand out his mobile phone number to mostly young women saying, ‘don’t line up for taxis, I will come pick you up’.

Byrnes, who has no prior offences for sexual offending, was supported in court by his wife, daughter and mother.

His lawyer said the family planned to live in a caravan park outside of Bendigo to appease police concerns.

But Ms Tregent said that would be “completely inappropriate”.

“He will be surrounded by young women and travellers, he will have access to several potential complainants similar to the existing complainants,” she said.

“I would have granted bail if there was more appropriate accommodation.”

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