Nova Scotia

Court dismisses appeal of former Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi

Former Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi was convicted of sexual assault in 2020, but he argued in an appeal that the judge's decision was flawed.

Al-Rawi was convicted of sexual assault in 2020, but he argued the judge's decision was flawed

Bassam Al-Rawi appears in Halifax provincial court on Jan. 7, 2019. (Robert Short/CBC)

Nova Scotia's highest court has dismissed the appeal of a former Halifax taxi driver who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman nine years ago.

Bassam Al-Rawi was convicted in August 2020 of assaulting the woman in his apartment in Bedford, N.S., on Dec. 15, 2012.

He had picked the woman up in his taxi in downtown Halifax. She had come into the city the day before, was lost and intoxicated. Her identity is protected under a publication ban.

In the original trial, the identification of Al-Rawi was a significant issue, as the woman was unable to identify him as the cab driver she had encountered.

In the appeal in June, Al-Rawi argued through his lawyer, Ian Hutchison, that the trial judge did not properly apply the law relating to identification evidence. The Appeal Court judges rejected that argument in their ruling, which was released Tuesday.

Appeal arguments rejected

Al-Rawi's lawyer also argued that the conclusion of the trial judge, Justice Gerald Moir, was flawed because he "engaged in impermissible speculation, improperly enhanced the complainant's credibility and reversed the burden of proof."

Hutchison argued Moir had failed to consider how selective the woman's memory was when assessing her credibility, as she had clear recollections of sexual activities but claimed to have no memory of developments that could have supported the taxi driver's defence.

In their decision Tuesday, the Appeal Court judges ruled Al-Rawi's lawyer failed to demonstrate there was an error in the trial judge's credibility analysis.

Hutchison also argued that the judge confused the concept of criminal intent and the defence of honest and mistaken belief in consent, stating that Moir "inappropriately only focused on the issue of 'communicated consent.'" But the Appeal Court judges ruled there is no indication Moir misunderstood or misapplied the concepts. 

"His reasons do not demonstrate error," the ruling says.

"Having considered the totality of the record and the submissions of counsel, I am satisfied none of Mr. Al-Rawi's complaints give rise to an error of law on the trial judge's part," Justice Cindy Bourgeois wrote in the decision on behalf of the two other judges, Elizabeth Van den Eynden and Peter Bryson.

"I would dismiss the appeal and uphold the sexual assault conviction."

Sentenced to 2 years

After the conviction, Al-Rawi was sentenced to two years in prison.

However, he had been free on conditions and was living in Germany while awaiting this appeal. He was instructed to return to Canada two weeks before the Court of Appeal issued its decision and turn himself in 24 hours before the decision was released.

A spokesperson for the judiciary confirmed Wednesday Al-Rawi turned himself in as required. He is now in custody.

Al-Rawi has previously been acquitted in another case of sexual assault.

That case generated controversy when the original trial judge said "clearly a drunk can consent" in his decision to acquit. Al-Rawi was eventually retried and acquitted a second time.

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