A lawyer appeared in court Tuesday for a former Halifax taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting two female passengers in separate incidents.
Bassam Al-Rawi, 42, is awaiting a retrial on an allegation of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman who was discovered by police passed out and partially naked in the back seat of his cab in May 2015.
Al-Rawi was found not guilty at trial last year. Judge Gregory Lenehan said the Crown failed to prove the woman, who had no memory of being in the vehicle, had not consented to sexual activity with the driver.
“Clearly, a drunk can consent,” Lenehan said, sparking public outrage and a national debate onthe capacity of intoxicated persons to consent to sex.
The acquittal was overturned in January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial.
The Appeal Court said Lenehan erred in law in by finding there was no evidence of lack of consent.
“The trial judge ignored or disregarded a substantial body of circumstantial evidence that would permit an inference to be drawn that either the complainant did not voluntarily agree to engage in sexual activity with the respondent or lacked the capacity to do so,” Justice Duncan Beveridge wrote in the unanimous decision.
The controversial acquittal prompted Halifax police to take a fresh look at a 2012 complaint against Al-Rawi.
A woman told police she was drunk and walking alone on a Halifax street in December 2012 when Al-Rawi came along and offered her a ride. She told police he drove her to an apartment, where she was sexually assaulted.
Police investigated the complaint at the time but felt there was not enough evidence to charge Al-Rawi.
Upon further review, police decided there were grounds for a charge of sexual assault, which was laid this February.
Al-Rawi, who no longer has a taxi licence, now lives in Germany.
Dates for his retrial were expected to be set Tuesday in Halifax provincial court, but lawyer Ian Hutchison asked that both cases be adjourned until next week.
“I require a little bit of time, Your Honour, to finalize getting my instructions from Mr. Al-Rawi,” Hutchison told Judge Rickcola Brinton.
“I know that the Crown wants there to be some movement,” the judge said in granting the adjournment.
Al-Rawi is free on cash bail of $500. He is forbidden from having contact with either complainant and must present himself to the court seven days before any trial or preliminary inquiry.