Bassam Al-Rawi, 40, is one very lucky man. He drew the right judge when he went on trial for the sexual assault of a drunken 26-year-old woman in the back of his cab on May 23, 2015.
Nova Scotia Judge Gregory Lenehan ruled Crown prosecutors failed to prove the woman did not give her consent.
“A lack of memory does not equate to a lack of consent.”
The unnamed woman testified the last thing she remembered was ordering drinks at a downtown Halifax bar. The next thing she recalled was being woken up by Halifax Regional Police Constable Monia Thibault, naked in the back of Al-Rawi's cab.
Constable Thibault discovered Al-Rawi's cab stopped near the corner of Atlantic and Brussels streets. She viewed the idling cab as suspicious and investigated. That's when she discovered the young woman passed out in the back seat of Al-Rawi's cab, part of Bob's Taxi fleet.
The unconscious young woman's legs were spread wide, one leg rested on each of the cab's front seats. Her tanktop was pulled up to reveal her bare breasts, her pants and underwear were in Al-Rawi's hands and his pants were unzipped.
In a statement to police, Al-Rawi said "when he drives long hours, he does so with his pants unbuttoned." What a convenient explanation when found with a naked, passed-out woman in the back seat of his cab.
According to LocalXpress.ca, in his oral decision Judge Gregory Lenehan said he had no choice but to find the alleged rapist not guilty.
“Where the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt (her) lack of consent, I am left with no alternative but to find Mr. Al-Rawi not guilty."
Despite the acquittal, Judge Lenehan did manage to call Al-Rawi's character into question.
“That isn’t somebody I would want my daughter driving with, nor any other young woman, and it is not somebody I would want to hire to drive for my company.”
I'll bet that is a great consolation to the young woman sexually assaulted in the back seat of Al-Rawi's cab.
Bob's Taxi fired Al-Rawi as soon as news of the sexual assault charge came to light. Justin Ghosen, owner of Yellow Cabs in Halifax, confirmed in an email Bassam Al-Rawi does not now, and has not in the past, worked for his company.
One can be forgiven if, based on this ruling, they believe Judge Gregory Lenehan dislikes women. That belief may be strengthened upon learning this is the same judge who demanded a woman leave his courtroom for the heinous offense of breast-feeding her child.
On October 14, 2015, Judge Lenehan ordered Willow Brooks to leave his courtroom. He did not want the young mother to breast-feed her child in his courtroom.
“I started to breastfeed my baby and the judge just looked at me and said, ‘Don’t breastfeed in the courtroom. I don’t have a problem with you breastfeeding. Just don’t do it in the courtroom.’ I took my baby and went into the waiting area.”
His order violated the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act, as confirmed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission's 2000 policy statement on the issue.
"Under the Human Rights Act women are protected from discrimination and harassment because of sex, which includes pregnancy, and family status, which means being in a parent-child relationship. In Nova Scotia it is illegal to discriminate because a woman is or was pregnant, because she may become pregnant or because she has had a baby. This includes a woman’s right to breastfeed her child."
I could not find any reference to Judge Lenehan being reprimanded for his disgusting behaviour.
In an odd side note, just one month after Bassam Al-Rawi allegedly raped a drunken young woman in the back of his cab, Adjudicator Eric K. Stone dismissed Bassam Al-Rawi small claims lawsuit against the city of Halifax.
On July 27, 2014, Halifax Regional Police Constable Dwayne Hodgson tackled a suspect before he could stomp on the head of a man laying on the ground. The momentum of his tackle sent both men into Al-Rawi's cab, causing $1,641.29 damage. Al-Rawi sued the city for damages, claiming Constable Hodgson could and should have used less violent means of preventing the attack.
The irony of Adjudicator Stone's written decision cannot be denied, given Judge Gregory Lenehan's acquittal of sexual assault charges against Al-Rawi.
"The Claimant was simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time" and she was too drunk to refuse consent.
“This often leads to people agreeing and to sometimes initiate sexual encounters only to regret them later when they are sober,. In testimony, (the woman) could not provide any information, any details on whether she agreed to be naked in the taxi or initiated any sexual activity. The Crown failed to produce any evidence of lack of consent at any time.”
That is the most offensive part of this ruling. Judge Gregory Lenehan presumes a woman's consent is automatic unless she expressly says no, can clearly remember saying no and, presumably, has witnesses to back up her version of events.
“I don’t not know if Mr. Al-Rawi removed her pants at her consent, at her request, with her consent, without her consent – I don’t know. This does not mean, however, that an intoxicated person cannot give consent to sexual activity. Clearly, a drunk can consent.”
Is this really the state of consent in Canada in 2017?
Where is Maryam Monsef, the Minister for the Status of Women? Does she have anything to say on the matter?
She refused my requests for an interview but perhaps someone else will fare better.