- Police figures show sex attacks involving Uber drivers up 50 per cent in a year
- From February 2015 and February 2016, there were 32 claims made against firm's drivers in London
- In the past 12 months to February 2017, that figure shot up to 48 alleged attacks
- But Uber said such incidents are 'incredibly rare' and result in driver bannings
PUBLISHED: 17:51 EDT, 28 July 2017 | UPDATED: 18:04 EDT, 28 July 2017
After a meal with her boyfriend and drinks at a leaving party, the 26-year-old office worker called it a night. It was only 10.30pm, but she had to be in work early the next day so, using her smartphone, she summoned a cab via the Uber app. It was a decision she would live to regret.
Her driver, an Eritrean refugee who had been working for Uber for only three weeks, quickly made her feel uneasy.
‘You are very pretty,’ said Samson Haile, 32. He then asked if she had a boyfriend, before announcing: ‘I want to have sex with you.’
Next, he grabbed her leg, moving his hand up her thigh. Terrified, the woman screamed and jumped out of the Toyota Prius, fleeing into the London night.
Hours later, Haile was at it again, telling a female passenger: ‘I want to sleep in your bed.’ As luck would have it, she was an undercover policewoman and Haile would subsequently be arrested and linked to the first attack.
Some might dismiss it as a relatively minor incident, but its impact would be immense.
‘I have suffered from repeated flashbacks relating to the incident,’ the victim revealed in a statement read out in court in 2015, when Haile was jailed for eight months.
‘I feel helpless, isolated and vulnerable, and the incident has made me lonely. I now don’t like being in a vehicle with a man I don’t know. I had to move since the cab journey because I was so worried the man knew where I lived. I am haunted by the “what if?” scenarios.’
Earlier this month, a different court was hearing another case involving an Uber driver. This time, Jahir Hussain was jailed for 12 years for attacks on three separate women in London. He groped two and raped the third, cutting off their underwear with a knife after they fell asleep in the back of his cab.
A spokesman said Uber’s thoughts were with the victims, but added: ‘While these attacks did not take place on a trip booked through our app, we were still able to support the police in bringing this man to justice.’
Little wonder there are growing concerns that Uber’s aggressive expansion could be jeopardising passenger safety. MPs and unions are warning that new drivers are exploiting legislative loopholes to sidestep measures intended to safeguard the public, such as installing CCTV cameras in the back of cabs.
Questions have also been raised about whether pressure on Uber drivers to maximise their earnings is leading to them lending their vehicles to other drivers — so passengers have no idea who may be driving them home late at night.
Some will see such criticisms as sour grapes, whipped up by those who lost out after the Californian company launched its services in London in 2012.
The firm runs a smartphone app that allows users to hail a minicab at the tap of a screen using location software in the passenger and driver’s phones.
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