Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has found a former Halifax taxi driver guilty of sexual assault.
Bassam Al-Rawi was found guilty of sexually assaulting a woman in his apartment in December 2012 after he picked her up in his cab in downtown Halifax.
Justice Gerald Moir delivered his decision in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Friday afternoon, where he said he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not consent to having sex with Al-Rawi.
He also said he believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Al-Rawi was the woman’s taxi driver the night of the assault.
“The guilty verdict tells the system, tells the community that when you come forward, and you are honest, and you tell the truth about violence that happens to you, you can make a difference,” said Crown attorney Carla Ball shortly after the verdict.
The complainant, whose identity is protected under a publication ban, testified that she became disoriented after a night of heavy drinking with her friends.
She said she did not have any memory of leaving the last bar she attended and began losing memory while walking outside.
The complainant testified that she recalled an interaction with a cab driver, but was not sure how the conversation started. She recalled the taxi driver saying he was “not going to leave her out in the cold” and she accepted the ride.
The complainant testified that she ended up inside Al-Rawi’s apartment. She said she first pretended to be asleep as he peeled off her clothes, vaginally penetrated her and attempted both oral and anal sex.
“This case is a reminder that implied consent does not exist,” said Ball. “People have to be sure that they’ve got consent before engaging in any sexual activity.”
Both the Crown and the defence entered their final submissions on Wednesday. Crown attorney Carla Ball argued that the woman did not give any consent whatsoever throughout the alleged assault.
Defence lawyer Ian Hutchison submitted that the complainant had “convenient memory loss” when it comes to many of the night’s events, apart from the moment of the alleged assault.
He also argued that there is no forensic evidence proving Al-Rawi is the person who assaulted the victim.
It’s the second time Al-Rawi has been charged with sexual assault. In September 2019, Al-Rawi was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who was found unconscious in the back of his taxi in May 2015.
Al-Rawi was also acquitted in an earlier trial in May 2017, but a new trial was ordered after the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found that the trial judge erred by ignoring circumstantial evidence.
The case garnered national attention after Judge Gregory Lenehan stated that “clearly, a drunk can consent.” It also motivated the complainant in this case to step forward, something the Crown said took strength.
“She has come forward and done herself and the community a public service. She has spoken up to prevent attacks on others and to tell the violence that she has endured,” said Ball.
Al-Rawi has been released on conditions, which include giving up his passport, not having contact with the victim and abiding by a curfew. He also agreed to report to police every Friday.
When asked leaving the courtroom if he had a comment on the verdict, Al-Rawi said, “No, not yet.”
Defence lawyer Ian Hutchison declined an interview on Friday.
His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 3.
—With files from Elizabeth McSheffrey