Nova Scotia

News coverage prompted complainant to take sexual assault allegation to Halifax police

A Nova Scotia woman alleging she was raped by a Halifax taxi driver in 2012 says police only laid a charge in her case when she reached out years later after she heard about a high-profile acquittal of a driver who had the same name. The sexual assault trial of former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi continued Friday.

A Nova Scotia woman alleged she was raped by Halifax taxi driver in 2012

Former taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi is shown in 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

A Nova Scotia woman alleging she was raped by a Halifax taxi driver in 2012 says police only laid a charge in her case when she reached out years later after she heard about a high-profile acquittal of a driver who had the same name.

The sexual assault trial of former cab driver Bassam Al-Rawi continued in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Friday, the second day of what is expected to be an 11-day trial.

This is the second sex assault case to bring Al-Rawi before a Halifax court. Last September, he was found not guilty in a retrial of a case that gained national attention and involved accusations he sexually assaulted a woman in his cab in 2015.

Defence lawyer Ian Hutchison cross-examined the complainant, a 35-year-old woman whose identity is protected by a publication ban, about how and when police were involved in her case.

Drove to Halifax with group of friends

The complainant has testified she drove to Halifax from Pictou County on Dec. 14, 2012, with a group of friends. She alleges she was raped by the driver in his apartment in the early morning hours of Dec. 15 while she was highly intoxicated and pretending to be unconscious.

After being examined for sexual assault when she returned home later that day, she reported the incident to RCMP three days after and gave them handwritten notes of her recollections, which they photocopied. 

On Friday, the complainant said the first investigating officer told her the suspect's name in her case was Bassam, but DNA results from her rape kit were "negative." Hutchison did not ask her to elaborate on that point, or clarify who the negative result was about.

In March 2013, the complainant was told police would not be laying charges in her case.

Four years later, in March 2017, the complainant was living outside the province when she heard a report on the radio about a taxi driver named Bassam Al-Rawi being found not guilty of sexually assaulting a woman who was found unconscious in his cab in 2015.

That case garnered significant attention after the original trial judge made the comment, "Clearly, a drunk can consent."

Read the news

The complainant said she also read a CBC News article referencing a search warrant police used in the 2015 matter, which noted two earlier complaints against Al-Rawi — one in 2012 and the other in 2014.

Believing the 2012 matter was her own, the woman reached out to Halifax Regional Police to get more information and speak to officers in that case. She also spoke with CBC on March 8, 2017, saying she was "sickened" by the acquittal.

Hutchison asked her whether she had been "angry" to see the news at the time. She said she was frustrated and felt "guilty" this other woman had been put in such a situation.

In August 2017, she was told charges would be laid in her case, and in February 2018 she gave another statement to police outside Nova Scotia.

Hutchison also questioned the complainant more closely about the texts and calls with her brother that night. She's said she had planned to stay at his downtown apartment after having drinks with a group of friends.

The complainant testified Thursday she remembers getting into the driver's taxi and driving around the city before they stopped at her brother's address. But she couldn't reach her brother with her phone and assumed he was not home.

Calls questioned

However, Hutchison pointed out on call logs there were no calls between her and her brother between 12:15 a.m. and just after 2:20 a.m. on Dec.15, to which she agreed. They did have a six-minute call around 2:20 a.m., but she doesn't remember what they talked about. 

She also does not remember if she asked her brother to come and get her, or gave him any details about where she was.

The defence lawyer noted her brother had texted her the address of the party where he was around 2:30 a.m., and about eight minutes later she was seen on surveillance video entering the driver's apartment building with him.

Hutchison suggested that she went up to the driver's apartment because she wanted to continue spending time with him, but she said no. She testified earlier she believed at the time he would still drive her back downtown.

When asked why she did not leave once she knew where her brother was, the complainant said she does not know.

'Sketchy place'

The complainant was also asked for more details about what happened in the driver's apartment and bedroom. He brought up her texts to her brother where she wrote she was in a "sketchy place" at 2:56 a.m., and at 3:01 a.m. that a "cab rando picked her up."

Her brother then tried to call multiple times after that and texted her, but she did not respond. The complainant has said the driver asked her to put down her phone, and she did so to avoid conflict.

The defence lawyer asked her why if she wanted to leave, she didn't ask the driver for his address to call a cab, or call her brother back. She said she was anxious about having a confrontation, and thought the man might get upset if she tried to leave.

At some point, the complainant found herself in the driver's bedroom and said she made a plan to lay on the bed with her clothes on and pretend to be asleep to avoid having sex. She has no memory of whether sex was brought up in conversation.

Defence questions why complainant stayed

Asked about how the driver took off her clothes, Hutchison suggested more than once the complainant might have taken them off herself. She disputed that.

Hutchison brought up other things the complainant could have done if she felt afraid, like going to a neighbour's apartment, going back into the living room, shouting out for the man to stop, or physically pulling away from him.

The complainant repeated her testimony from Thursday: she wanted to avoid making the situation more violent and hoped that by not participating and acting passed out, he would stop.

She also said she felt very nauseous and intoxicated, and didn't have any other options.

The cross-examination will continue Monday. There are 11 days set aside for the trial.

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