Officer denies racial abuse on taxi driver

Jeanette McNee. Photo / James Jubb
Jeanette McNee. Photo / James Jubb

A police officer denies allegations she racially abused a taxi driver in Queenstown last year while affected by a cocktail of prescription drugs and alcohol.

Jeanette May McNee, 44, of Lake Hayes Estate, was charged with using offensive language towards Queenstown Taxis driver Ganesh Paramanathan on November 3 at Rere Rd, Lake Hayes Estate.

She denies telling the driver: "F*** off to India. You come here and get all of the Kiwi jobs, eat your f*** curry and f*** off to India. This is a Kiwi job."

She was initially investigated for alleged assault before the offensive language charge was laid in March.

McNee, who has been on leave without pay since March last year, appeared in the Queenstown District Court yesterday before Judge Tony Couch.

The court heard that on the evening of November 2, McNee drank a glass of wine and then took two Ibuprofen pills to ease pain following an unsuccessful hip operation.

A short time later, she took two Tramadol and then attended a function with her husband, Geoffrey McNee, and friends.

Between 8pm and 11.30pm, she drank three more glasses of wine and took another Tramadol.

The group went to another bar, where McNee consumed one wine, before going to a final bar, where she did not drink.

Mr Paramanathan said he picked the group up at a taxi stand in Camp St about 2.30am and put them on a local's rate.

They requested three drop-offs - one at Quail Rise and two in Lake Hayes Estate.

As they neared Glenda Dr he said McNee began to "whinge about the fare", which came to $40 at the first stop.

A female passenger paid $40 and got out of the cab, but at a male passenger's request Mr Paramanathan said he refunded $20, which was taken to the woman.

After continuing to Lake Hayes Estate, Mr Paramanathan said McNee complained further, asking how did he manage to sleep at night because he was "ripping people off".

A couple were dropped off in Lake Hayes Estate, paid $20 and the driver was directed to Rere Rd.

The taxi fare totalled $62, but Mr Paramanathan said he rounded it down to $60, with $20 owing.

"By that time, the lady was making so much noise," he said.

"[McNee] got out of the van, she was standing by the door but leaning inwards and the male passenger [Mr McNee] was trying to hand me $20.

"She was saying 'Don't pay him any more money ... the $40 he's got so far is more than enough'."

Every time Mr McNee tried to hand over the money, McNee grabbed it before allegedly using the offensive language while pointing her finger in his face.

The driver said he responded by pointing back and told her not to be "abusive and racist" and he was "only doing my job as a taxi driver".

"She got more angry at that and said 'Don't point your fingers at me'.

"She grabbed my left wrist, squeezed it and twisted it."

Mr Paramanathan said he warned her not to touch him and that he would call the police.

"She got very aggressive, held the door handle and said 'I am the police'."

McNee denied using any of the offensive language or "whinging" about the fare.

She admitted she was "frustrated and agitated at the driver", who would not respond to their concerns about the fare.

She said she did not realise the driver had refunded $20 at Quail Rise, believing the trip had cost $80.

She did not believe she was affected by alcohol, but the third Tramadol had "some effect" on her.

While she admitted trying to stop her husband paying the final $20, she did not "recall" pointing her finger at Mr Paramanathan, but on watching the video footage from the taxi she accepted she had done it.

McNee said after her husband paid $20, Mr Paramanathan "pointed his finger in my face ... wagging his finger".

"I instinctively pushed it out of the way."

The following day she tried to contact Mr Paramanathan via dispatcher Logan Heke, asking to speak to a "tall, skinny, Indian gentleman" to "apologise for something that had happened the night before"..

Prosecutor Glenn Henderson said McNee made the calls because she realised she was "in trouble".

"You were feeling ripped off, it was too expensive ... you remember all of the things that relate to the fare but for some reason you didn't remember anything relating to behaving inappropriately and badly."

Defence counsel Nic Soper said all passengers, not just McNee, had voiced their concerns over the fare, that McNee did not make any of the comments alleged. Further, the other two passengers with McNee could not recall her making the comments.

Mr McNee told the court he did not witness any finger pointing, did not hear any racial abuse and did not witness any physical contact between the two.

The judge-alone trial continues today.

- Otago Daily Times

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