Nova Scotia

Trial of former Halifax taxi driver delayed after defence requests own expert

The sex assault trial of a former Halifax cab driver Bassan Al-Rawi has been delayed for three months after the defence asked for time to consult a second toxicologist.

Defence says Crown didn't give proper notice they would be asking about alcohol absorption

Former taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi arrives at provincial court in Halifax in 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The sex assault trial of a former Halifax cab driver has been delayed for three months after the defence asked for time to consult a second toxicologist.

Bassam Al-Rawi appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Monday for the eighth day of his trial. He is accused of raping a woman in his apartment in the early hours of Dec.15, 2012. 

The 35-year-old complainant has testified she drove to Halifax from Pictou County with a group of friends on Dec. 14, 2012.

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

This is the second time Al-Rawi has been charged with sexual assault in Halifax.

Last September, he was found not guilty in the retrial of a case that gained national attention and involved accusations he sexually assaulted a woman in his cab in 2015.

Crown did not give proper notice: defence

On Monday, defence lawyer Ian Hutchison, Crown attorney Carla Ball and Justice Gerald Moir 
continued to discuss an issue Hutchison brought up Friday around the testimony of an expert witness.

Hutchison had objected to Ball's line of questioning of RCMP forensic toxicology specialist Christopher Keddy on Friday. Keddy testified from Ottawa via video that the complainant's urine sample collected the evening of Dec.15, 2012 tested positive for cannabis, but not alcohol.

Ball asked Keddy whether a woman of the complainant's height and weight could still have been impaired by alcohol between 2:30 a.m. and 4 a.m. and have no alcohol present in her urine about 16 hours later, when the sample was taken as part of a rape kit.

But Hutchison objected, saying he was not aware Ball would be asking Keddy about calculating alcohol absorption rates. He said if that were the case he would have consulted his own toxicologist to give Al-Rawi a proper defence.

He said the notice Ball had sent him about Keddy before trial didn't mention she would be asking specifically about alcohol absorption, only drugs.

But Ball said her pre-trial notice included Keddy's qualifications and background, showing he is an expert on absorption rates of drugs and alcohol. She said it made sense to ask him about both substances.

Defence seeks second toxicology expert

In court Monday, Hutchison said he planned to talk to a toxicologist before the end of the day but had not confirmed whether they would be officially added to the case.

He said the expert selected would likely want to look at the analysis of the urine, which would take time.

Hutchison said he did not want to cross-examine Keddy until he could consult his own expert.

"I'm not a scientist, my client is not a scientist," he said.

Keddy said he would be unavailable to testify after Tuesday due to other commitments.

Moir said there was "no way" Hutchison would be able to finish cross-examination by the end of the day Tuesday. 

Court was then adjourned until June 1, 2020. Three days have been set aside to wrap up the trial. 

Al-Rawi was in court with his wife on Monday. They live in Germany and have been travelling back and forth to Halifax for his court appearances.