Nova Scotia

Defence in taxi sex assault trial suggests woman initiated sex

The defence in the sexual assault trial of former Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi suggested Thursday the complainant may have agreed to have sex with the accused in the early morning hours of May 23, 2015 after leaving a downtown bar.

It is the 2nd trial for Bassam Al-Rawi, previously acquitted by judge who said a drunk can consent to sex

Bassam Al-Rawi, shown Monday at Halifax provincial court, is on trial for sexual assault involving a woman who was a passenger in his cab in May 2015. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The defence in the sexual assault trial of former Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi suggested Thursday the complainant may have initiated sex with the accused in the early morning hours of May 23, 2015 after leaving a downtown bar.

The woman herself testified earlier this week she remembers very little about what happened during the previous evening because — by her own admission — she was severely intoxicated.

Ian Hutchison​, lawyer for Al-Rawi, posed a number of statements to the complainant, asking her if she could disagree with them.

In each case, because she could not remember, the woman answered that she "could not disagree" with the defence's suggestions.

No memory of cab ride

Her responses:

  • She could not disagree with the statement she had argued with friends and walked away from them, flagging down Al-Rawi's taxi near pizza corner in downtown Halifax.
  • She could not disagree with the defence suggestion that she may have jumped in the cab's front seat and failed to give a destination and simply gestured.
  • She couldn't disagree she may have told the driver her problems, she might have kissed him and hugged him as they drove.
  • She said she could not disagree that she may have jumped out of the taxi at one point and then jumped in the back seat.
  • She also said she could not disagree that she may have removed her own pants or could even have been conscious as a police vehicle pulled up behind the parked cab.

The first officer on the scene testified she found the woman unconscious and half-naked in the back seat.

'Quite intoxicated'

Al-Rawi was acquitted at his first trial in March 2017. That acquittal provoked a national outcry, including street protests and complaints about the conduct of the trial judge, after he said in his ruling that "clearly, a drunk can consent."

The Crown appealed that decision and the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal subsequently ordered a new trial, citing errors the first judge made in law, including ignoring an ample amount of circumstantial evidence.

On Wednesday, the woman accusing Al-Rawi testified that she was "quite intoxicated" the night she took a taxi driven by the accused in May 2015. The woman's identity is protected by the court.

She told the court she had at least five beers, two tequila shots and a vodka drink without eating beforehand. She also testified that she has no memory of what occurred during an 11-minute cab ride from the downtown bar district to the south end, far from her intended destination in the west end of Halifax.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from court. Mobile users can read here.

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