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‘Not going to stand for this’: Group pens letters for Halifax judge’s removal

Click to play video: 'A group of concerned citizens are hoping that by writing letters they can get a review started into a Halifax Provincial Court judge’s recent ruling.' A group of concerned citizens are hoping that by writing letters they can get a review started into a Halifax Provincial Court judge’s recent ruling.
A group of concerned citizens are hoping that by writing letters they can get a review started into a Halifax Provincial Court judge's recent ruling – Mar 5, 2017

With the stroke of a pen, Elise MacIntyre is hoping to make a big change.

She and a group of other concerned citizens gathered Sunday afternoon at the Halifax Central Library to write letters expressing their outrage with a recent decision made by a provincial court judge.

“I think the biggest purpose is so they make sure they understand the public is paying attention,” said MacIntyre.

“If he’s going to set a precedent, I think we need to set our own, that we’re not going to stand for this sort of thing.”

On Wednesday, Justice Gregory Lenehan acquitted Bassam Al-Rawi, 40, of sexual assault. In May 2015, a Halifax Regional Police officer found Al-Rawi and an unconscious, partly naked 26-year-old woman in his idling cab near the intersection of Atlantic and Brussels Streets.

During a two day trial in February, the court heard that Al-Rawi was found with the woman’s urine-soaked pants in his hand, her DNA on his lip and his pants undone. However, it wasn’t enough for a conviction, with Lenehan ruling that the crown had failed to produce any evidence of a lack of consent.

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“It seems like short of being caught on tape while you’re screaming ‘no, please don’t’, it seems like no amount of evidence is ever going to be good enough,” said MacIntrye.

“The women of this city immediately have one more reason to be afraid. They have one more reason to fear taking a cab, taking a bus, walking home alone each night because if there’s not enough evidence in this case to have a conviction, what kind of case and what kind of evidence would you need to have?,” added Sarah Bezanson, who took part in the letter writing campaign.

READ: Here’s why the issue of consent is not so clear in sexual assault cases

The group is now asking that Lenehan’s ethics and his court decisions be reviewed. They would also like to see him removed from the bench.

“Judges need to be held accountable to a higher standard then the average worker,” said MacIntyre.

Gregory Lenehan is shown in this file photo from 2006, when he was a crown attorney.
Gregory Lenehan is shown in this file photo from 2006, when he was a crown attorney. File/Global News

“I’ve had people ask why do you think that just lay people complaining is going to make a difference and I was like cause it’s lay people’s lives that he’s controlling. It’s our lives that he is making decisions about.”

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“It’s 2017, the people of this city and elsewhere need to be protected and they need to feel as though they can take public transportation, they can be out after dark, they can have a few drinks without being assaulted, without having someone taking advantage of them,” said Bezanson.

READ MORE: Groups call for removal of ‘drunks can consent’ judge in Nova Scotia

Official complaints regarding Lenehan’s ruling in Al-Rawi’s case have been filed, however it is unclear how many complaints the Nova Scotia Chief Justice’s Office has received to date. At this time, the crown attorney presiding over the case has not decided whether or not to appeal the verdict. A decision on any appeal process must be made by the end of March.

Meanwhile, two separate protests have been planned by Haligonians.  Hundreds of people are expected to gather for a rally outside city hall Tuesday afternoon and then march to the courthouse on Spring Garden Road

A second protest is scheduled to get underway Wednesday at 12:45 p.m., in grand parade.

WATCH: One Halifax woman has started a social media movement aimed at providing alternative transportation to those uncomfortable taking taxis.

Click to play video: 'Halifax woman leads movement offering safe drives to fearful taxi passengers' Halifax woman leads movement offering safe drives to fearful taxi passengers
Halifax woman leads movement offering safe drives to fearful taxi passengers – Mar 3, 2017

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