Forensic officer testifies at sexual assault trial of former Halifax taxi driver
The high-profile re-trial of a former Halifax taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated female passenger began Monday with testimony from a forensic police officer.
Bassam Al-Rawi faces a charge of sexual assault in a May 2015 incident, after an acquittal was overturned last January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The Crown’s first witness was Det. Const. Marshall Hewitt, who worked in the Halifax police forensic identification section at the time.
Hewitt testified in Halifax provincial court that he photographed a handcuffed Al-Rawi at a police station in the early hours of May 23, 2015, and took DNA swabs of his hands, mouth and genitals.
“I noticed that his jeans were unbuttoned,” Hewitt told Judge Ann Marie Simmons of what he saw when he first encountered Al-Rawi.
Hewitt, who now works in the general investigation section, held up clothing items that were seized from the suspect, including a white T-shirt, jeans and underwear.
He also described photos he took of the taxi, which was seized as part of the investigation.
“It appears that the front driver seat is reclined more than the front passenger seat,” said Hewitt in describing a photo of the interior of the vehicle.
A pink cell phone, purse and a $20 bill were seized from the vehicle, and a condom and wallet were found inside its middle console, said Hewitt.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Ian Hutchison, Hewitt agreed that the owner of the condom was never determined.
“(There’s) nothing illegal about having a condom in a vehicle, is there?” Hutchison asked.
Hewitt replied: “No.”
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Al-Rawi – wearing a dark suit, white collared shirt and a red tie – took notes during proceedings Monday. He sat next to an Arabic interpreter, who will translate the proceedings for Al-Rawi when required throughout the trial.
The appeal court concluded the judge that presided over Al-Rawi’s first trial in March 2017 erred in law by finding there was no evidence of lack of consent.
Judge Gregory Lenehan’s comment in his decision that “clearly, a drunk can consent” to sex sparked a national debate over intoxication and the capacity to consent to sex.
An independent judicial review committee last year dismissed several complaints against Lenehan, saying it found no evidence of impermissible reasoning or bias in his ruling.
© 2019 The Canadian Press