A judge has acquitted a former Halifax cab driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger.
The Crown alleged Houssen Milad kissed a female passenger on top of her head while driving her home to the Armdale neighbourhood in June 2016, and groped her buttock before she got out of the vehicle.
But Judge Gregory Lenehan said Thursday the Crown did not come anywhere near proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and did a “disservice” to the complainant and to the community.
Defence lawyer Thomas Singleton said police in the case had tunnel vision, focusing on his client and ignoring other possibilities, and didn’t track down other leads.
Lenehan said the complainant’s debit transactions weren’t analyzed to see if there were any from Milad’s cab.
“Did anyone think to check?” the judge asked.
The 26-year-old complainant – who was not present for the verdict – had earlier told Lenehan she did not consent to being touched by the driver.
Milad testified in his own defence, denying through an Arabic interpreter that the woman was ever in his vehicle.
Milad broke down in tears Thursday as the judge told him he was “free to leave” Halifax provincial court.
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The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings against Halifax taxi drivers accused of sexual assault. Police said last year there had been 14 reported sexual assault cases involving cabbies in the city over the previous four years.
Lenehan has previously delivered a controversial decision in another case of a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger in his cab.
In that decision, first reported by Metro Halifax, Judge Gregory Lenehan ruled that the Crown didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the complainant didn’t consent to sexual activity with the cab driver, Bassam Al-Rawi.
“A drunk can consent,” Lenehan said as part of his ruling.
The decision, and that phrase, in particular, sparked a backlash, with protesters taking to the streets in Halifax, groups calling for the judge’s removal, and provincial politicians voicing their disapproval of the judge’s comments.
Earlier this month, the Nova Scotia Judiciary announced on Thursday that a review committee will investigate complaints made against Lenehan.
— With files from Alexander Quon, Global News