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Man found guilty of assault for touching Vancouver bus driver’s thigh without her consent

Passengers board a bus in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019.
Passengers board a bus in downtown Vancouver, Friday, November, 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A man who touched a Vancouver bus driver’s leg for less than five seconds in 2018 has been found guilty of assault.

In the decision last month in B.C. Provincial Court, Justice Lee said Sarjit Singh Toor’s contact with bus driver Leah Osachuk “was not a mere trifle or of a minor nature,” and found Osachuk was in a vulnerable position that made it difficult to defend herself during the incident.

Osachuk testified that on on Oct. 19, 2018, she stopped her southbound bus at Main and Hastings streets, where the assault suspect boarded.

The driver testified the man was unstable on his feet and needed help from other people to get on the bus, further describing him as “wobbly” and “loosey goosey.”

She also suspected the man was either drunk or on drugs.

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Osachuk said the man stopped beside her and asked if she was going to Victoria Drive and 49 Avenue, then placed his hand on her right shoulder.

“Don’t touch me,” Osachuk said she told the man. “I am aware of where you are going. Have a seat.”

The man then took a seat at the back of the bus.

At Commercial Drive and Venables Street, the man approached Osachuk to tell her something. Osachuk told him again to take a seat, but the man remained standing just behind her.

Bus driver allegedly assaulted in Kelowna, bus crashes in opposite lanes
Bus driver allegedly assaulted in Kelowna, bus crashes in opposite lanes

That’s when Osachuk said the suspect leaned forward and placed his hand on Osachuk’s thigh, leaving it there for two to three seconds before she yelled, “Don’t touch me.”

The man then sat back down while Osachuk stopped the bus and called her supervisor, who contacted police.

Two Metro Vancouver Transit Police officers testified they attended the stopped bus at Kingsway and Victoria Drive, where the suspect was already in Vancouver police custody.

The suspect, who the officers said had alcohol on his breath, identified himself as Toor and was taken into transit police custody.

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Osachuk testified the bus was not moving during the second contact, and the man appeared steadier than he was when he boarded the bus.

The court saw surveillance video from the bus that showed the first interaction, but didn’t show the man actually touching Osachuk’s leg.

However, the video did show the man reaching towards where her leg would have been, and he did not appear to stumble.

In his decision, Justice Lee said it was clear Toor was the man who touched Osachuk both times, the latter of which he deemed intentional.

Video shows bus driver eject passenger after she allegedly made contact with him
Video shows bus driver eject passenger after she allegedly made contact with him

The judge also noted Osachuk made clear she didn’t want to be touched, and rejected the idea that the case should be dismissed due to the brief length of time Toor touched Osachuk’s leg.

“I am not prepared to set a time limit for how long a person’s body must be touched to qualify as the physical element of an assault under the Criminal Code,” he wrote.

“In my view, the act of touching or contacting another person is still an application of force, however brief.”

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Finally, the judge said Osachuk was restricted from defending herself due to her driver’s seat, while acknowledging the danger transit operators are often in due to those restrictions.

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Citing the Criminal Code, Lee said the government “considers the protection of public transit operators to be of special importance,” saying the occupation is an “aggravating factor” for assault victims.

“I attribute this to the vulnerability that transit operators have during the course of their employment duties and their interaction with an assortment of bus passengers.”