A former Yellowknife taxi driver’s conviction for assaulting a passenger was upheld in NWT Supreme Court on Monday, ending his hopes of working again in the industry.
Matar Mahamed Mahamud was not in court to hear Justice Shannon Smallwood uphold a lower court’s 2018 conviction for assault causing bodily harm and a conditional sentence of eight months with one year’s probation. He is currently out of the country.
Mahamud had hoped to clear his record and regain his chauffeur’s permit.
He lost the permit in late 2018 after an emotional plea before city council.
“The sentencing judge was aware that a conviction would mean [Mahamud] would no longer be able to drive a taxi in Yellowknife and he took that into account with the sentence,” said Smallwood.
“The sentencing judge noted that the victim was vulnerable because he was intoxicated and unable to defend himself. He also noted that Mr Mahamud, as a taxi driver, had a duty to provide a safe drive to his passenger.”
The CBC reported in 2018 that cab drivers are required to report any convictions to the city’s senior administrative officer, but Mahamud never did that.
The city learned of his conviction through news reports and revoked his permit.
The court heard that in July 2017, Mahamud was hailed by a man who had “consumed a number of alcoholic beverages” after work at the Kilt and Castle pub in downtown Yellowknife.
The intoxicated man asked Mahamud to drive to McDonald’s in uptown, then back downtown to his apartment at Ciara Manor. There, the two men argued over the form of payment for the fare – Mahamud could not accept debit cards and the passenger had no cash.
When the passenger attempted to leave after offering to either go to an ATM or pay the cabbie the following day, a struggle ensued.
Smallwood said a witness in the apartment block saw Mahamud punch the passenger three times in the face while he lay on the ground.
Police were called. Mahamud was arrested later at the Yellowknife detachment. He had no prior criminal record.
The passenger was left with two black eyes and other injuries. He was too intoxicated to provide a consistent account of what occurred.
“This is an attempt to re-try was has already been tried by the trial judge; that is not the function of an appellate court,” said Smallwood, noting there is no evidence the witness lied, but that the trial judge rejected Mahamud’s testimony.
Smallwood also determined the sentence of house arrest, followed by probation and a DNA sample for the national crime databank, was “not demonstrably unfit.”
Mahamud had told the court he had been robbed previously and subjected to rude passengers.
He said his life “was completely shattered to pieces [by] a story by just one witness.”
The case made headlines as Mahamud’s trial came at a time when Yellowknife’s cab drivers were calling for improved safety measures. Several had been robbed, assaulted, or refused payment. One man, Ahmed Mahamud Ali, was killed while driving his cab in November 2018.