Taxi passenger who accused Al-Rawi of sex assault in 2012 'sickened' by acquittal

A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Bassam Al-Rawi five years ago says she was "sickened" by the former cab driver's acquittal last week at the end of an unrelated sexual assault trial in Halifax.

Former Halifax cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi was the subject of two police complaints before 2015 incident

Bassam Al-Rawi appears in Halifax provincial court during his sexual assault trial last month. (Jeff Harper/Metro Halifax)

A woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by Bassam Al-Rawi five years ago says she was "sickened" by the former cab driver's acquittal last week at the end of an unrelated sexual assault trial in Halifax.

Information about the alleged 2012 incident is contained in a search warrant application with respect to the most recent 2015 case, which went to trial. According to the document, in May 2015, police said they found Al-Rawi parked in his taxi, his pants unbuttoned, with a woman naked from the waist down passed out in the back seat.

Last week, Nova Scotia provincial court Judge Gregory Lenehan acquitted Al-Rawi of sexual assault and ruled the Crown failed to prove no consent was given.

The verdict, as well as a comment Lenehan made during the ruling that "Clearly, a drunk can consent," have drawn criticism and sparked protests. The province's Public Prosecution Service said Tuesday it is appealing the acquittal.

'He didn't start the meter'

The search warrant application in the May 2015 case notes that a crime analyst mentioned a file from 2012 related to a cab driver called Bassam Abdullatif. Abdullatif and Al-Rawi are the same person, according to the application.

In the 2012 case, the woman reported being intoxicated and driven to an apartment where she was sexually assaulted.

"I was approached by his cab when I was walking alone on a street in Halifax," the 32-year-old woman told CBC News in an interview. She is not being identified given the nature of her allegations.

"He offered to take me where I needed to go. I eventually got in his cab. He didn't start the meter."

In 2012, a woman reported being intoxicated and driven to an apartment where she was sexually assaulted. Her case was closed due to a "lack of solvability." (CBC)

Woman feels 'deep empathy'

According to the search warrant application, Al-Rawi "was questioned under caution for the offence, but he stated that he did not recall the incident, but that at no time would he force someone to have sexual intercourse."

Police closed the case "due to lack of solvability." He was not charged.

"Through the course of the investigation, it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a charge at the time," Halifax Regional Police Const. Dianne Penfound said Wednesday.

Al-Rawi's lawyer, Luke Craggs, declined to comment on the case.

The woman said she feels "deep empathy" for the complainant in the recent case that has sparked outrage and formal complaints about Lenehan.

"No woman wants to be sexually assaulted by a cab driver," she said. "None."

'Pattern of behaviour'

The woman said she sees "a deliberate pattern of behaviour to prey on vulnerable women looking to get home safely."

"I see the failure of the justice system and I see the outrage that I felt on the faces and words of people protesting the judge's ruling last week," she told CBC News.

In addition, the same search warrant also refers to an alleged incident from Nov. 1, 2014, when a woman contacted police about Al-Rawi's behaviour.

"She reported that the driver did not stop at her house, turned the meter off and kept driving around the block while calling her 'Baby,'" according to the application.

A need for more support

The woman alleged she got Al-Rawi to stop the car, but "when she tried to get out of the cab he grabbed her hand and asked her to stay."

Al-Rawi told police at the time that the woman wanted to listen to a song, so he turned off the meter and kept driving. The woman only wanted the information documented, according to the application.

The woman from the 2012 incident said she wants to see a system that better protects and supports victims and brings them justice.

"I would like to see more training for judges on sexual assault, but at the very least I would like to see GPS or cameras installed in all cabs in Nova Scotia to make it feel like a safe place of business."

None of the allegations with respect to the 2012 and the 2014 complaints have been tested in court.

With files from the CBC's Angela MacIvor