Bendigo taxi driver faces court on rape charge

A BENDIGO taxi driver has been charged with rape after picking up a woman from the Bendigo CBD early on Sunday morning. 

The Bendigo Magistrates Court yesterday heard Robert McNeil Byrnes of California Gully placed a hat over the taxi’s video camera during part of the alleged sexual assault. 

Byrnes, 44, faces charges of sexual assault, false imprisonment and indecent assault. 

Senior Constable Robert Goodman told the court Byrnes picked up the woman, who had been out at a nightclub, at 3.47am on Sunday. 

He said the taxi driver of three weeks tried to touch the woman several times while driving, before digitally penetrating her. 

Police allege Byrnes parked in Kangaroo Flat and put his hat over the car’s camera before taking the woman from the vehicle and allegedly raping her. Senior Constable Goodman said Byrnes then asked the woman if she was on the pill before dropping her near her home. 

Senior Constable Goodman said the footage “is clear (and) concise” before the alleged rape and showed Byrnes placing his hat on the camera and taking it off about five minutes later.

When asked why the woman hadn’t fled, Senior Constable Goodman said she had been fearful and thought Byrnes might “settle down” if she acted calm. 

In applying for bail, defence lawyer Kate Youngson said Byrnes believed the sex was consensual and his financial situation and ability to pick up his children would be impacted if he was remanded. 

The court heard two males were also briefly driven in the taxi and Ms Youngson said the woman had flirted during the trip. She added Byrnes was not a flight risk. 

But prosecutor Lindsay Riley said “the strength of the evidence is good... he does pose an unacceptable risk”.Magistrate Richard Wright said “this offending seems to be quite worrisome”. 

Mr Wright noted Byrnes was a family man before granting bail with strict conditions including reporting to police three times a week, not driving a taxi and not leaving his home between 6pm and 9am. 

A committal mention will be held on January 9.