A "DEVIOUS" taxi driver who groped two female customers has been told he was "very fortunate" to avoid a jail term.
Wayne Elsey had denied assaulting two young women within 24 hours of each other in September 2011.
He convinced the first to let him carry her shopping into her Uplands flat before he groped her, and within 24 hours he had assaulted a second woman after taking her home to Pontardawe.
Judge Paul Thomas said the two women were both vulnerable, one because of a medical condition, and the other because she was "very drunk".
The second woman had been out in Swansea when she agreed to drop her three friends at home first, leaving her alone with Elsey, of Zouch Street, Manselton.
He began making inappro- priate remarks to her before parking his car in a remote lay-by and touching her breast.
Having already given her his mobile number, he then began texting her, and it was when he refused to stop that police were contacted.
Elsey was convicted of two counts of sexual assault after a trial at Swansea Crown Court. His barrister, Stephen Rees, said his client had been in denial about the offences.
"He tells me he is now remorseful and anxious," said Mr Rees. "For a man of his background that's been particularly harsh. It's effectively achieved the clang of the prison gates effect, and for him to lose his liberty at any stage has been particularly difficult for him and his friends and family. Hearing the clang of the prison gates has been a significant punishment already," said Mr Rees.
Elsey, 45, had no previous convictions. Mr Rees told the court his client is a full-time carer for his brother-in-law, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
The judge said the courts were determined to send out a message to any customers who were violent but said they also had a duty to customers who had placed trust in their driver.
"Any male driver is likely to be in a situation where drunken women are alone with him and a message should be sent out that this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated," said Judge Thomas.
"There has to be a large degree of trust for any female getting into a cab alone, otherwise many drivers can't earn their living and a valuable public service could be lost," he said.
"These were not determined efforts in the sense you didn't go further than momentary sleazy groping," said Judge Thomas.
But he said he had found Elsey to be a "devious individual" after he undermined their character during their court appearances.
Judge Thomas said by the end of the trial at Swansea Crown Court he had decided Elsey would be sent to prison but since then had changed his mind.
Elsey has been remanded in custody for the last 12 days awaiting sentence.
"The public should be aware of the fact you have spent time in custody as a result of what you have done but I have to look at the broader picture and it's not without a great deal of misgiving, it is in society's best interest and that of your brother-in-law that the sentence I pass does not involve a return to custody.
"I think that the effect of custody in this case has already been achieved by the period you have done in custody," he added.
After imposing a three-year community order, Judge Thomas said: "You're a very fortunate man," he said.