Halifax taxi driver takes the stand at sexual assault retrial
Published Wednesday, April 17, 2019 3:28PM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 17, 2019 10:42PM ADT
A former Halifax taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger has taken the stand at his retrial.
Bassam Al-Rawi faces a charge of sexual assault after an acquittal was overturned last January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The court previously heard that a police constable found a woman passed out and mostly naked in the back of a taxi, with the driver between her legs.
The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, previously told the court she was drunk on the evening of May 22, 2015, and does not remember leaving a downtown bar.
She testified that her next memory was being in a hospital with two nurses and a police officer.
The woman said she would not have consented to sex with the cab driver.
On Wednesday, the court heard that a condom had been found inside the taxi. Al-Rawi testified that he has carried a condom since he was 23 years old.
When asked by the defence why the button on his jeans was open that night, he told the court that he sits for long hours in the car, and it’s more comfortable to have his pants unbuttoned.
His retrial heard from several Crown witnesses over four days in January. However, the trial came to a halt when concerns were raised about the translation of testimony from a forensic biologist into Arabic.
Judge Ann Marie Simmons said it was imperative that Al-Rawi understands all of the testimony, and so the trial was adjourned until Monday to make accommodations and to hear more testimony from Crown witnesses.
A new translator, who will translate testimony from English to Arabic for Al-Rawi, was sworn in Monday in Halifax provincial court.
Al-Rawi was acquitted of sexual assault in March 2017. However, his acquittal was overturned by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, which concluded the judge erred in law by finding there was no evidence of lack of consent.
In his decision at the first trial, Judge Gregory Lenehan said: "clearly, a drunk can consent” -- a remark that sparked a national debate over intoxication and the capacity to consent to sex.
An independent judicial review committee last year dismissed several complaints against Lenehan, saying it found no evidence of impermissible reasoning or bias in his ruling.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Heather Butts and The Canadian Press