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Halifax taxi driver accused of sexual assaulting passenger allowed to drive cab again

“You’re taking his livelihood away for what could be a very lengthy period of time with absolutely no proof of anything, just on an allegation.”

A plate on a taxi is shown.

Andrzej Terrence/For Metro

A plate on a taxi is shown.

A Halifax taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting one of his passengers is once again allowed to drive a cab.

Bassam Al-Rawi had his licence suspended after he was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in his taxi in May.

At a closed-door hearing before Halifax city council's Appeals Standing Committee on Wednesday, that decision was overturned.

Al-Rawi didn't show up to the hearing, instead letting his lawyer, Mike Taylor speak for him.

After the meeting, Taylor told Metro his client's licence will be reinstated after a unanimous decision by the committee.

There are two conditions to the reinstatement: Al-Rawi won't be allowed to drive between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and he will be required to have a camera in his vehicle, pending the outcome of the court proceedings.

"He has to work," said Taylor when asked why his client appealed the suspension.

"You’re taking his livelihood away for what could be a very lengthy period of time with absolutely no proof of anything, just on an allegation."

Al-Rawi's former employer, Dartmouth-based Bob's taxi, fired him when that allegation came to light.

Bob's manager Kim DeMont said Wednesday he still won't be driving one of its cabs.

"Until I know whether he was innocent … I don’t want him back here," said DeMont.

“I mean if he was innocent, then who am I to convict him? But if he’s still going on trial, no.”

The charges against Al-Rawi have yet to be proven in court. Taylor said he is waiting for more disclosure from the Crown before his client will make a plea or set a date for a trial.

Al-Rawi was arrested on May 23 and charged with sexual assault.

Halifax Regional Police said a patrol officer came across a cab parked at the corner of Atlantic and Brussel streets in the city’s south end around 1: 20 a.m.The officer noticed “suspicious activity inside the vehicle,” a police news release said then.

Upon further investigation, police determined that the 26-year-old female passenger had been sexually assaulted, allegedly by the driver.

Paramedics took the 26-year-old victim to hospital to be checked out and she was later released, police said.

'If I say it’s a huge black eye it’s an understatement'

Granting a taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger permission to drive a cab again is what one local industry president dreaded.

Dave Buffett, head of Halifax Taxi Drivers Owners Association, attended Wednesday’s Appeals Standing Committee meeting on a different matter, but later spoke against the decision to allow Bassam Aladin Al-Rawi to successfully appeal the suspension of his taxi driver and taxi owner licence.

“If I say it’s a huge black eye it’s an understatement,” Buffett said later Wednesday afternoon.

“I think for anybody in the industry or anybody who takes a cab from time to time it’s, very, very disturbing.”

With his license now reinstated, Al-Rawi is free to drive a cab either as part of a company or as an independent.

Between 150 to 200 drivers currently operate without a service broker, according to the association, meaning independent drivers find passengers curbside, rather than respond to calls for service.

The association said anyone can be an independent driver so long as they have a valid licence, vehicle with a metre, display a registered company name on a roof light and show their cab ID number.

Regardless of the outcome of Al-Rawi’s case, Buffett said, “from an industry point of view we’ve taken a hit” in reputation.

“It reflects on all of us. We’re fathers, we’re husbands, we’re boyfriends, we’re sons,” he said Wednesday.

With files from Metro's Stephanie Taylor

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