News / Halifax

Other 'logical' reasons for alleged victim of sexual assault to be found naked in taxi: defence

Bassam Al-Rawi's defence lawyer says there's no evidence the cabbie forced himself on the alleged victim, and the case is circumstantial.

Bassam Al-Rawi appeared in Halifax provincial court Thursday

Jeff Harper/Metro

Bassam Al-Rawi appeared in Halifax provincial court Thursday

The defence for a Halifax taxi driver accused of sexual assault says there are many “logical” reasons, besides guilt, that could explain an intoxicated woman being found mostly naked in the cab.

Bassam Al-Rawi appeared in Halifax provincial court Friday for the second day of his trial related to a May 23 2015 incident. The court heard the alleged victim was found by police in Al-Rawi’s cab, passed out after a night of drinking with her belongings spread around the front seats as she lay in the back with her feet up on the two front seats, only a shirt partially covering her breasts.

Luke Craggs, Al-Rawi’s defence lawyer, told the court “it doesn’t look very good” when police come across a car with a sober man in the front and “a half-naked girl passed out in the back,” with the man having her shoes, pants and underwear sitting where he is.

“It certainly looks suspicious, but I think that’s the absolute most that can be said about it,” Craggs said.

“The court’s well aware you cannot convict on suspicion.”

Crown attorney Ron Lacey said based on the evidence he presented Thursday and Friday morning, which included police testimony from the two constables who found the cab around 1:20 a.m., a toxicology report showing the 26-year-old woman was heavily intoxicated, the woman’s DNA around Al-Rawi’s mouth, and the “chilling position” she was found in, he submitted nonconsensual touching occurred and a conviction was warranted.

However, Craggs said the Crown’s case was based on only circumstantial evidence, and he said there are “many other logical inferences to be drawn.”

The cab records show Al-Rawi picked up the victim on Grafton Street at 1:08 a.m. Saturday, which Craggs said leaves only a 10-minute window he could have decided to take advantage of the woman before police arrived, which he called “unlikely.”

Although the Crown said it was suspicious Al-Rawi pulled the cab over in the south end near the corner of Atlantic and Brussels streets when the victim lived on the other side of the rotary, Craggs said it’s possible the victim hadn’t given him her address at all, since a friend testified earlier in the night she refused to go home.

A residential south end street is also “pretty much the worst place” to attempt an assault, Craggs said, and if Al-Rawi’s plan was to avoid detection “it seems he did a very poor job of it.”

The DNA around Al-Rawi’s mouth also could have been a number of substances, Craggs said, like the victim’s saliva, sweat, oil from her fingers, or urine since the court heard she had urinated on the pants found in the cab.

Craggs said based on the victim’s level of “inhibition,” the more likely inference is she pulled off her own clothes and threw them with her purse into the front seat.

Regarding the police testimony Al-Rawi’s pants were also undone when they arrived, Craggs said they were snug and more likely “undone for the sake of comfort.”

The defence called no evidence, and the judge reserved his decision until March 1.

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