Cabbie accused of sex assault back behind wheel

The Manitoba Taxicab Board has reinstated the licence of a Unicity Taxi driver who a female passenger has accused of sexually assaulting her.

Driver was planning to fight suspension using legislative loophole

The Manitoba Taxicab Board has reinstated the licence of a Unicity Taxi driver who was accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger.

Gurmail Plaha, 50, has been given back his licence to drive a cab after it had been pulled for the second time for the same complaint in May, the oversight board said on Wednesday.

The board said because criminal charges against Plaha have not been laid, they decided to reinstate his licence.

The board and Winnipeg police investigated the married driver last November after a woman accused him of groping her in the front seat of his cab.

The woman admitted she was "distraught and shaken" in documents obtained by CBC News in July.

"The driver threatened [her] that if she found out that she informed anyone of the incident, that he would return and harm her," the taxicab board stated in the documents.

The taxi board pulled his licence immediately, but gave it back to him when no charges were laid.

However, Plaha's licence was taken away again in May after police said they had developed enough evidence to charge him with a single count of sexual assault.

Police said he was arrested and released on a promise to appear in court at a later date.

The charges have not yet been entered in the provincial court system.

Plaha has been fighting through the Court of Appeal to regain his licence since June.

But in mid-July, that appeal was adjourned indefinitely.

Double jeopardy

His reinstatement comes not long after Plaha and his lawyer, Paul Walsh, served notice they were set to challenge the legal authority of the Taxicab Act to suspend a driver's licence twice on the same set of allegations.

"The Taxicab Board was immediately functus officio upon terminating the original suspension, particularly as there was no new evidence or allegations (ie, the subsequent criminal charge) is not a new fact and is not new evidence," a recently-filed brief from Plaha to the appeals court reads.

The Latin terminology means he cannot be retried on the same allegations.

As well, under the section of provincial legislation that allowed the board to suspend Plaha's licence, there must exist circumstances requiring immediate protection of the public, the cabbie said.

Because the incident involving the woman took place in November, Plaha was preparing to argue that the immediate protection of the public was not a concern and his suspension violated the legislation's intentions.

"The jurisdiction of the Taxicab Board is entirely circumscribed by statute," court documents said.

In a July 14 letter to the court, Walsh said the lawyer for the taxi board had agreed the appeal hearing should be adjourned with no set date for it to resume.

Plaha has denied the woman's allegations.

"I swear to God I did not do this thing," he told a board investigator after she came forward to complain.

The board said in documents that Plaha was reprimanded in 2008 for "prohibited conduct" toward female passengers.