Woman tells trial she wouldn't have consented to sex with taxi driver
HALIFAX -- The complainant in a high-profile sexual assault case says she has no memory of being found mostly naked in a Halifax taxi, and would not have consented to sex with the cab driver.
"I simply would not consent to any manner of sexual contact with a stranger -- someone much older than me who is on the job," the woman, now in her late 20s, told Bassam Al-Rawi's retrial Wednesday.
The complainant told Halifax provincial court Judge Ann Marie Simmons she was at a charity event on May 22, 2015, and later in the evening she and some friends went to Boomer's Lounge downtown.
She said she had not eaten dinner and felt "quite intoxicated" while at the nightclub.
The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, said her last memory was standing at the bar.
"I don't remember much else," she said in a soft voice.
The next thing she recalled was being in a hospital with two nurses and a police officer.
"I was feeling very confused and uncomfortable," she said. "I had urinated on myself. I didn't really know why I was there."
Crown lawyer Jennifer MacLellan asked the woman if she was aware that she had been found naked and unconscious in a taxi cab earlier that evening.
"I have been told that," said the complainant, who remained composed throughout her testimony.
Al-Rawi faces a charge of sexual assault, after an acquittal was overturned last January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The appeal court concluded the judge that presided over Al-Rawi's first trial in March 2017, Gregory Lenehan, erred in law by finding there was no evidence of lack of consent.
MacLellan also asked the woman about where she lived at the time, and she testified it was several kilometres from where police found her in Al-Rawi's taxi.
"Can you think of any possible reason you would have had to be in that area?" asked MacLellan.
"No," the woman replied.
Under cross examination by defence lawyer Ian Hutchison, the woman conceded that police never asked her if they could conduct a forensic analysis of her cellphone, although several screenshots were taken of text messages she sent and received before and after the alleged incident.
In the messages, the woman makes spelling errors and described being "drunk" to a friend. She testified that she does not remember sending the texts.
Cross examination is expected to continue Thursday.
On Tuesday, Const. Monia Thibault testified that she was investigating a rash of robberies early on May 23, 2015, when she came upon a cab parked on a dark street in the city's south end, with the rear window fogged up.
Thibault said she saw a young woman naked in the back seat except for a tank top that was pushed up, partially exposing her breasts, and her legs were propped up on the front seats.
She said the driver had his body turned towards the back seat and between the woman's legs.
In his decision at the first trial, 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.