The “hero” cab driver who took an alleged armed bank robber back to his home and kissed, cuddled and showered with her has had his taxi licence temporarily reinstated.
The Department of Transport suspended 39-year-old Tony Vaisi’s taxi licence on December 14 after police provided the department with details from his witness statement that suggested he had breached the taxi driver’s code of conduct.
Mr Vaisi was hailed a hero after he made a citizen’s arrest of the woman in the carpark of Koondoola supermarket on November 27.
In the three hours before he tackled the woman to the ground she allegedly held him hostage and forced him to drive her around.
Before Mr Vaisi picked the woman up the woman had allegedly committed several serious crimes, including two armed robberies of banks in Dianella and Booragoon.
During a hearing at the State Administrative Tribunal on Friday, Mr Vaisi revealed he only became aware the woman was the alleged bank robber after some time when he heard warnings not to approach the woman on the radio in his taxi.
He admitted he took the woman back to his Koondoola home where they showered together and kissed and cuddled in his bedroom before he tackled her at the supermarket.
The Department of Transport said the pair did not have sex but “there was certainly some intimacy”.
Today, it was decided Mr Vaisi, who has driven a cab with a clean record for 10 years, did not pose a risk to the public if he continued to drive a cab.
Member Bertus de Villiers said the public interest was an important factor to consider with the taxi industry, but he was not satisfied the public would be at risk if Mr Vaisi continued to drive a taxi.
Mr de Villiers said he took Mr Vaisi’s previously unblemished record into account.
“These are very unique circumstances,” Mr de Villiers said.
“The tribunal is satisfied that Mr Vaisi has put forward an arguable case.”
After this morning’s decision, the department said it was confident in its decision to suspend Mr Vaisi’s taxi licence due to the breach of the code of conduct.
“The department maintains that Mr Vaisi engaged in sexual activity with his passenger, which is a gross breach of the Taxi Driver Code of Conduct,” DOT passenger services general manager Aaron de Rozario said.
“Any driver who engages in such behaviour should be removed from the taxi industry.”
Outside the tribunal, Mr Vaisi said he was pleased to have his licence and his credibility back.
Mr de Villiers was damning of the Department of Transport’s preparation in the lead-up to Friday’s hearing, saying there were several shortcomings with the department’s case.
Mr Vaisi said he wanted to say thank you to his family and friends for supporting him in the weeks since the incident.
“I am very happy to get back to my job,” Mr Vaisi said.
“I love Australia and one of the reasons I drive a taxi is because I love the Australian people.”
A final hearing to determine whether Mr Vaisi can keep his taxi licence in the long term will be held on March 20.