In a shocking ruling, a Halifax judge’s decision to acquit 39 year old Bassam Al-Rawi of sexual assault of a highly intoxicated female passenger resulted in nationwide condemnation and planned rallies, in addition to petitions and calls that the judge be investigated.
Al-Rawi was arrested and charged by Halifax Regional Police after an intoxicated and unconscious young woman was discovered an in the back seat of his cab in May 2015.
In a March 1 ruling, transcribed by the National Post, Judge Gregory E. Lenehan confirmed that Al-Rawi was charged with a single count of unlawfully committing a sexual assault on contrary to Section of the Criminal Code.
The complainant, who consumed a large three alcoholic beverages in a bar, had no recollection of leaving the bar alone and getting into a taxi shortly after 1 am on May 22, 2015. “She doesn’t recall any of that because she was drunk”, Lenehan told the court.
At 1:20 a.m., police officers responding to an unrelated robbery call in the area noticed a suspicious activity in Al-Rawi’s car, which was parked at the south end of Halifax “which would not be in anyway in the direction one would drive from the location the cab was hailed to get to the complainant’s home”.
Const. Monia Thibault observed at that time what appeared to be an unconscious woman in the back seat who was naked from the waist down, her tank top pushed up and her personal items strewn about the vehicle.
“And she was lying down with her head toward the rear passenger side door. Her legs were up onto the seat backs of the front bucket seats. She was naked from her breasts down. Her black wedged sandals were on the floor of the driver’s compartment where Mr. Al-Rawi was located. Her pants and underwear were in the possession of Mr. Al-Rawi as he was observed trying to shove them between the front seat and the console. On the front passenger seat was the complainant’s purse and jean jacket. Her wallet and cell phone were on the floor of the front passenger compartment. As was a $20 bill. The complainant’s pants were actually found to be turned inside out with the underwear caught up in the pants and the pants were damp as a result of the complainant having urinated while wearing her pants”, Lenehan told the court.
Al-Rawi’s pants were undone at the waist and his zipper was down a couple of inches. The judge said the evidence indicated that Al-Rawi removed the woman’s pants. A DNA analysis later found the complainant’s DNA above- Al-Rawi’s lip.
“So I have struggled to determine what all of this evidence proves”, the judge told the court, but in spite of the evidence, he concluded that a lack of memory does not equate to a lack of consent.
According to Lenehan, the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intoxicated and unconscious woman did not consent to sexual activity with Al-Rawi. “Clearly, a drunk can consent” Lenehan stated bluntly before acquitting Al-Rawi.
Protests calling on judge Lenehan to be disbarred and for Al-Rawi to be retried and placed on the national sex offenders’ registry are planned in Halifax on March 7 and March 8.
A petition by a “concerned Nova Scotian” calling for an inquiry into judge Lenehan, has generated over 31,000 signatures.
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]