Nova Scotia

Former Halifax taxi driver convicted in sex assault loses bid for mistrial

A former Halifax taxi driver convicted of sexual assault has had his request for a mistrial thrown out. Bassam Al-Rawi argued the victim's impact statement contained new evidence, but a Supreme Court judge dismissed the application.

Supreme Court judge said the victim's impact statement contained no new evidence

Bassam Al-Rawi is accompanied by his wife at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A former Halifax taxi driver convicted of sexual assault has had his request for a mistrial thrown out.

Bassam Al-Rawi was found guilty in August of sexually assaulting a woman in his Bedford, N.S., apartment in the early hours of Dec. 15, 2012.

He appeared Wednesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to apply for a mistrial on the basis of comments contained in a victim impact statement.

The victim, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified during Al-Rawi's trial that she drove to Halifax from Pictou County with a group of friends on Dec. 14, 2012.

She said a taxi driver picked her up while she was lost downtown and later assaulted her while she was drunk and pretending to be unconscious.

In her victim impact statement — a letter that describes how a crime has affected someone's life — the woman talked about living with fear for eight years that Al-Rawi's "predatory cycle of abuse" would hurt other women. She also questioned whether she did enough to stop future violence.

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

The victim reported the assault right away, but Halifax police didn't lay any charges. She came forward again years later after hearing the same taxi driver had been acquitted of a different sex assault in 2017.

Police reopened her case, and laid a sex assault charge in 2018.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said she finally felt as though she had "done enough" because Al-Rawi was being held accountable by the court.

Al-Rawi's lawyer, Ian Hutchison, said Wednesday these comments were fresh evidence.

Hutchison said the woman was driven to get a conviction not just for herself, but also for others who had accused Al-Rawi.

He said her bias against Al-Rawi and motivation based on guilt and anger was showcased in the new statement, which affected her credibility.

But Crown attorney Carla Ball argued there were no new details that affected evidence around Al-Rawi's identity or the actual sex assault.

Ball said nothing in the statement comes near to meeting the legal test for reopening a trial, and the victim was only expressing general concern.

Crown attorney Carla Ball argued Al-Rawi's application did not meet the legal test to reopen a trial. (CBC)

"It's not hinged on whether or not he committed another offence — it's the fear that it could have happened," Ball said in court. "This is a reasonable feeling of any victim of sexual violence."

An application to reopen a trial after a verdict can only be done in "exceptional" circumstances, Ball said.

Justice Gerald Moir agreed with the Crown that the victim's statement had no fresh evidence.

He said he'd already dealt with the victim's motivation to come back to police a second time after hearing of Al-Rawi's acquittal, and pointed out both defence and Crown had questioned her at length on that point.

Moir said he'd already ruled that the victim was a credible witness, and her impact statement made it clear she was talking generally about her concerns that an "indeterminate group of women" might be hurt by Al-Rawi. 

Sentencing to go ahead

The judge said this would not have affected the conviction and dismissed the mistrial application.

Al-Rawi's sentencing is set to go ahead on Thursday.

He was originally scheduled to be sentenced in early November, but Hutchison asked for more time to prepare the mistrial application.

Al-Rawi and his wife live in Germany and travelled to Nova Scotia during the trial. After the conviction, Al-Rawi was forced to hand over his passport and live with a friend in Bedford under bail conditions.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haley Ryan

Reporter

Haley Ryan is a reporter based in Halifax. Got a story idea? Send an email to haley.ryan@cbc.ca, or reach out on Twitter @hkryan17.

now