Trans­la­tion is­sues de­lay sex as­sault re­trial

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON \/ ATLANTIC -

The high-pro­file re­trial of a Hal­i­fax taxi driver ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a fe­male pas­sen­ger has been ad­journed after hear­ing tes­ti­mony from the com­plainant and from the po­lice of­fi­cer who found her un­con­scious and al­most naked in a cab.

Bas­sam Al-Rawi’s trial was sched­uled to con­tinue Fri­day in Hal­i­fax provin­cial court, but there were con­cerns raised about the trans­la­tion of tes­ti­mony from a foren­sic bi­ol­o­gist into Ara­bic.

Judge Ann Marie Sim­mons said it is im­per­a­tive that Al-Rawi un­der­stands all of the tes­ti­mony, and so the trial was ad­journed un­til April 15 to make ac­com­mo­da­tions and to hear more tes­ti­mony from Crown wit­nesses.

“Thank you,’’ Al-Rawi — wear­ing a blue but­ton-up sweater, white col­lared shirt and blue tie — said to the judge just be­fore the ad­journ­ment.

Al-Rawi, who is in his early 40s, 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 erred in law by find­ing there was no ev­i­dence of lack of con­sent.

The re­trial has heard from sev­eral Crown wit­nesses over four days.

A po­lice con­sta­ble has tes­ti­fied she found the woman, now in her late 20s, passed out and mostly naked in the back of a taxi, the driver be­tween her legs.

The com­plainant, whose iden­tity is pro­tected by a pub­li­ca­tion ban, told the court she was drunk on the evening of May 22, 2015, and does not re­mem­ber leav­ing a down­town bar.

She re­mem­bers stand­ing at the bar at Boomers Lounge, and her next mem­ory was be­ing in a hospi­tal with two nurses and a po­lice of­fi­cer.

The woman tes­ti­fied she 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 told the re­trial Wed­nes­day.

De­fence lawyer Ian Hutchi­son ap­peared to sug­gest dur­ing his cross-ex­am­i­na­tion of the com­plainant Thurs­day that she kissed the driver dur­ing the ride from down­town, and re­moved her own clothes in­side the cab.

“If I was to sug­gest to you that it was in fact you who pushed your pants down, would you be in a po­si­tion to dis­agree?’’ Hutchi­son asked.

The woman, now in her late 20s, replied: “No.’’

The re­trial has been sched­uled for an­other four days. It’s not known yet if the de­fence will call ev­i­dence.

In his decision at the first trial, Judge Gre­gory 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.


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