Sydney ridesharing driver charged with sexual assault

NSW Police have confirmed that a Sydney man has been charged with sexual assault after picking up a young woman whilst claiming to work for a ridesharing service.

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Katja Kircher/Corbis

A Sydney-based ridesharing driver has been charged with sexual assault after an investigation into an alleged incident in Sydney's eastern suburbs on the weekend.

NSW Police today released a statement alleging a 39-year-old man "was working for a shared-ride service when he offered the young woman a lift home." The 22-year-old woman accepted the ride and got into the car just after midnight on Saturday night, from Bayswater Road in Vaucluse, near the busy Kings Cross nightspot.

The man is then alleged to have "driven to a nearby side street where he parked and sexually assaulted the woman."

The case comes at a time of wider debate around the safety of ridesharing, a practice that allows users to request car rides from other pre-approved members of the public via an app, without having to pay usual taxi fares. While ridesharing services have argued that their platforms provide greater choice as part of a broader sharing economy, opponents and the established taxi industry have labelled ridesharing as dangerous and

After a full investigation by Rose Bay police, police detectives arrested the man at 3pm yesterday, before he was taken to Campsie Police Station and charged with "sexual intercourse without consent."

The man appeared in Burwood Local Court today, where he declined to enter a plea. He was granted conditional bail and will be required to report daily to police, to stay at his home address and to surrender his passport and undertake not to approach an international terminal.

In a statement, NSW Police indicated the driver was working for a shared-ride service at the time he offered the lift. In response to questions, police would not confirm which ride-sharing company the man was associated with. In the Australian market, Uber's UberX is the only platform in wide-use for private drivers to offer their car as a taxi alternative ride-sharing service.

A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment on whether the driver is a contractor for its UberX service.

"Our thoughts remain with the victim and her family in this terrible situation," the Uber spokesperson said. "We will do everything we can to work with the police to help with their investigation."

Uber's spokesperson suggested the police media statement is not clear on whether this was a trip initiated through a ridesharing app or a ride accepted on the street. If this was the case Uber suggests the man may have only claimed to drive with a ride-sharing service.

Uber has faced legal action in other regions, including China and the US over alleged sexual assault incidents. After an alleged assault in the US in late 2014, the company said it was committed to safety but that there was "more work to do," and that it would conduct a global safety review.

Uber did not respond to further requests for comment.

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