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New trial ordered for Halifax cab driver acquitted of sexual assault

New trial ordered for Halifax cab driver acquitted of sexual assault
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The Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for Bassam Al-Rawi, who was acquitted in March 2017 of sexually assaulting his female passenger.  (Jeff Harper/Metro Halifax)  

By Haley RyanMetro

Wed., Jan. 31, 2018

The acquittal of a Halifax taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting his female passenger has been overturned and a new trial ordered.

In a decision released Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal said they were satisfied that trial Judge Gregory Lenehan erred in law when handing down a not guilty verdict to Bassam Al-Rawi on March 1, 2017.

The Court of Appeal heard arguments on behalf of the Crown as the appellant, while defence lawyer Luke Craggs represented the respondent this past November.

Judge finds Halifax cab driver not guilty of sexually assaulting passenger

Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Bassam Al-Rawi in March 2017 of a charge stemming from an alleged sexual assault against a female passenger in May 2015.

In his oral decision, Lenehan stated three times he saw no evidence that proved a lack of consent beyond a reasonable doubt. In the appeal, the Crown said that “simply wasn’t correct;” there were many pieces of circumstantial evidence around consent and the complainant’s capacity to give it.

The Crown cited multiple pieces of evidence pointing to lack of consent: the complainant’s very high blood alcohol level; the fact she urinated on herself in the cab and in the hospital; how she was unconscious and only woke up when an officer shook her awake; and her positioning in the cab — her naked legs up on the seat in front of her, as Al-Rawi attempted to hide her bundle of pants and underwear in the front of the cab, while his pants were down and his seat reclined.

The judge’s decision reads they found Lenehan “erred in law in finding that there was no evidence of lack of consent. The trial judge ignored or disregarded a substantial body of circumstantial evidence that would permit an inference to be drawn that either the complainant did not voluntarily agree to engage in sexual activity with the respondent or lacked the capacity to do so.”
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