HALIFAX — A Halifax cab driver who was acquitted last week of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in the back of his taxi in 2015 was questioned after similar allegations three years earlier, according to court documents that allege an inebriated female passenger was taken to an apartment and sexually assaulted.
The claim is detailed in a search warrant related to the alleged 2015 incident involving 40-year-old cabbie Bassam Al-Rawi, and outlines the woman's earlier allegations.
The woman, who is not named, said she was driven to an apartment by a cab driver, taken upstairs and sexually assaulted sometime in 2012, according to the warrant. At the time, she told police she had limited recollection of the assault.
The document states that Al-Rawi was questioned and told police he did not recall the incident, and said he would not force someone to have sex and "that he had never had intercourse with someone who was sleeping or passed out."
Halifax police Const. Dianne Penfound said Thursday officers investigated an allegation five years ago, but found at the time that there was not enough evidence to proceed with a charge. She said they are now reviewing the investigation into an alleged sexual assault on Dec. 15, 2012, that involved a cab driver, but could not confirm the suspect's name since charges have not been laid.
Penfound said police had spoken to the alleged victim Wednesday, but she could not reveal anything about the case or the evidence.
"We have been in contact with her and are taking another look at it," she said. "It's a trauma-informed approach to sexual assaults and we want the victims to know that we support them throughout the process and after the process as well."
She said the woman alleges that she was picked up on Brunswick Street near Prince Street in downtown Halifax, taken to an apartment outside the city and sexually assaulted. The woman reported it to police sometime later.
"The evidence at the time was not sufficient for a charge, but we're going to look through it again," Penfound said.
She said the review would determine whether the 2012 case should be formally re-opened.
Al-Rawi's lawyer, Luke Craggs, said in an email Thursday that he has no comment on the earlier allegations.
In a separate incident also detailed in the warrant, another woman alleged that Al-Rawi picked her up in 2014, drove past her house and kept going around the block, calling her "baby" and grabbing her hand when she tried to get out of the cab. Al-Rawi told police the woman wanted to listen to a song, so he turned the meter off and kept driving, according to the warrant. No charges were filed in that matter.
On May 23, 2015, police say they found a woman passed out, partially dressed and highly inebriated in the back of Al-Rawi's cab on a residential street in south end Halifax. The warrant states that an officer approached the idling cab and spotted the woman, naked from the waist down and her tank top pushed up.
The officer stated that when Al-Rawi got out of the cab, she noticed his pants were partly down and his zipper was undone.
He was charged with sexual assault, but was acquitted by Judge Gregory Lenehan, who ruled that the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the woman did not consent to sexual activity — a decision that prompted protests and much debate over how the courts handle such sensitive cases.
The judge said a person is incapable of consent if they are unconscious or are so intoxicated that they are unable to understand or perceive their situation.
"This does not mean, however, that an intoxicated person cannot give consent to sexual activity,'' he said. "Clearly, a drunk can consent.''
The Public Prosecution Service announced Tuesday that it would appeal the decision, stating Lenehan made multiple legal mistakes in finding Al-Rawi not guilty.
Alison Auld, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said charges had been laid in the 2012 case.