It didn’t take long for a protest to form in Halifax amidst the controversial not-guilty verdict in a years-long case involving a former taxi driver charged with sexual assault.
Amanda Dodsworth has been following Bassam Al-Rawi’s high-profile retrial ever since it first entered the courts.
Al-Rawi was originally charged in 2015 after a woman who was naked from the waist down was spotted late at night by police officers in the back seat of the vehicle he was operating.
He was charged with sexual assault but was acquitted on Wednesday by Judge Ann Marie Simmons.
For Dodsworth, the verdict speaks to a larger issue about how sexual assault is handled in within the justice system.
“We just devalue women and their experiences as a society,” Dodsworth told Global News in a phone interview Wednesday.
“We make a habit of looking at women and their actions and how they put themselves in those situations, rather than looking at men and their actions.”
During the trial, the complainant, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, testified that she had no recollection of any interaction with Al-Rawi and would not have consented to have her clothes removed by him.
A Halifax Regional Police constable testified she approached Al-Rawi’s parked taxi to find him between the legs of an unconscious woman, partially naked with her shirt lifted up enough that her breasts were revealed.
“If a Halifax police officer as your witness isn’t enough to garner a conviction, what the hell is?” Dodsworth disputed. “It’s bananas. How much more credible of a witness do you need?”
WATCH: Closing arguments begin in retrial of Bassam Al-Rawi
This was Al-Rawi’s second sexual assault trial. He was also acquitted in March 2017, but the decision was overturned by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal after it was determined that Judge Gregory Lenehan erred by finding there was no evidence showing a lack of consent.
Lenehan’s decision sparked national outrage when he stated that “clearly, a drunk can consent.” Dodsworth helped organize the large protest in Halifax that occurred after that statement.
Dodsworth admits this protest will likely be different than the last.
“That was mostly hinging on language used,” she said. “I think this has a lot more to do with the system and how it works.
“I think at this point it’s really just about disappointment and concern about what that verdict means for others going forward.”
The protest is scheduled to take place this Friday at 4 p.m. at Halifax’s Grand Parade.
—With files from Alexa MacLean and The Canadian Press.
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