Petition calls for suspension of licence for taxi driver charged with sex assault
An online petition is demanding that Halifax City Council suspend the licence of a taxi driver charged with sexual assault until the case goes through the courts.
Bassam Aladin Al-Rawi is accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger in his cab in May. Police say the 26-year-old woman appeared to be unconscious when an officer on patrol came across the cab parked at the corner of Atlantic and Brussels streets.
Al-Rawi was arrested at the scene and charged with sexual assault.
He has no criminal record, but court documents show two previous complaints against him by women who were passengers in his taxi. Charges were never laid.
Halifax’s Appeals Committee agreed on Aug. 5 to reinstate Al-Rawi’s suspended licence with conditions. He is only allowed to operate a taxi between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and he must have a camera in his vehicle, but Tina Alcorn says he shouldn’t be driving a taxi at all.
“We need to step up and protect the public,” says Alcorn, who created the petition. “If this was a doctor or dentist or other similar practitioner working within the public sector, that person would be immediately suspended from performing their duties.”
Dave Buffett, the president of the Halifax Taxi Drivers Association, says he was appalled to hear that Al-Rawi’s licence had been reinstated. He says Al-Rawi is no longer working for any cab company in the city and that it would be difficult for him to earn a living operating as an independent driver.
Gill Landry, a social worker at Adsum House, says Al-Rawi has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but that right must be balanced with the risk to the public.
“We often use cabs to transport somebody who’s experiencing a domestic violence situation or another safety concern to our shelter,” says Landry.
“This is not just a women’s issue,” says Alcorn. “This is a community issue. This is going to affect all vulnerable populations within our city.”
City councillors say they can’t comment on the decision because it was made in-camera, but there are no plans to reverse it.
Al-Rawi is due in court in September.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Sarah Ritchie