Halifax police didn't inform taxi office of 2012 sex assault allegation

Halifax Regional Police have acknowledged that when they investigated a sexual assault allegation against taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi in 2012, they didn't tell the people in charge of granting him his licence.

Al-Rawi was not charged in that matter and police closed the case. But in 2015, he was charged with sexually assaulting a passenger after police found him parked in his cab with his pants unbuttoned and a woman passed out in the back seat.

He was acquitted of that charge last week. The Crown has since given notice it will appeal the decision amidst public outrage about the verdict and comments by the presiding judge.

2012 file to be reviewed

The admission from police that they did not contact the city comes on the same day they confirmed they are reviewing the file from 2012 in which a woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by Al-Rawi at an apartment after he picked her up in his cab.

The decision to review the file is "based on consultation between the complainant and a sexual assault investigator," Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. Dianne Penfound said in an email.

Municipal spokesperson Brendan Elliott said the taxi licensing office has no record of having been informed by police of any incidents with Al-Rawi other than the one that led to the charges in 2015.

HRM informed on case-by-case basis

While it's routine practice for police to inform the cab company someone is driving for when they investigate an incident — even if no charges are laid — Elliott said the municipality is informed "on a case-by-case basis."

"We would expect that police would inform us if they feel that there's someone who's on the road that shouldn't be."

Al-Rawi was driving for Bob's Taxi from March 2014 until May 2015.

Company unaware of investigation

In a statement, the company said "the taxi commission's statutory declaration requires all applicants to state if they have been charged or convicted of a criminal offence in the past five years, however does not require disclosure about investigations where charges have not been brought about.

"Bob's Taxi would have been completely unaware of any investigations related to Mr. Al-Rawi."

Following the charges in 2015, the municipality suspended Al-Rawi's licence. Council's appeals standing committee later reinstated his licence with conditions that he drive only between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and that he have a working camera in his cab.

But because Al-Rawi never presented the taxi office with any documentation showing the company for whom he'd be driving, his licence became non-operational and he could not legally operate a cab.

Concerns should also go to 311

Elliott said the municipality's taxi office has a good relationship and "excellent lines of communication" with police when it comes to sharing information, especially since 2015.

"There's a recognition that both agencies have a similar goal, which is to ensure people are safe in cabs."

He also noted, however, that if someone feels they've been treated inappropriately in a taxi and they call police, "don't assume that just because you've called police that our taxi office knows about it."

Elliott said people should always call 311 about such situations because "our level of appropriateness might be different than the criminal code."

"We certainly have suspended licences in the past for what we've considered to be inappropriate behavior that may not necessarily be criminal."