Two Halifax taxi drivers accused of sexual assault make court appearances
Seyed Mirsaeid-Ghazi finished his preliminary inquiry in Halifax provincial court and Farset Mohammad's lawyer appeared on his behalf in Supreme Court.
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The cases of two different taxi drivers charged with sexual assault were in court in Halifax on Thursday.
Seyed Mirsaeid-Ghazi, who was 45 years old when he was arrested and charged last year, appeared in Nova Scotia provincial court to finish his preliminary inquiry, which began in December.
Mirsaeid-Ghazi was arrested and charged in April 2016 in relation to an alleged sexual assault in October 2015. Halifax Regional Police said a man driving a taxi in the area of Windsor and Allan streets picked up a 21-year-old female passenger he had driven on previous occasions. Police said he touched the woman in a sexual manner without her consent before dropping her off at her destination in Halifax.
In court on Thursday, a witness no longer living in Halifax testified via video link. His testimony is protected by a publication ban, as is the identity of the complainant in the case.
Mirsaeid-Ghazi has committed to stand trial, and elected to be tried by Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge alone. He’ll be in Supreme Court on March 30 to begin the process of setting dates for his trial. His lawyer, Luke Craggs, declined to comment outside court.
After his taxi licence was suspended pending the outcome of legal proceedings, Mirsaeid-Ghazi asked to have it reinstated in a June 2016 meeting of Halifax’s Appeals Standing Committee, but that appeal was denied.
Sexual assault allegations involving taxi drivers have been in the spotlight across Canada since former Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi was acquitted earlier this month in a controversial decision in which provincial court Judge Gregory Lenehan said, “clearly a drunk can consent.” The Crown is appealing that decision on six grounds.
The Crown attorney assigned to Mirsaeid-Ghazi’s case, Carla Ball, said outside court that the public interest doesn’t affect her duty to prove the case.
“The Crown certainly is aware that there is a public interest around sexual assaults involving taxi drivers, but the Crown nonetheless proceeds and puts forward the evidence that we have to prove the elements,” she said.
In a separate case on Thursday morning, defence lawyer Laura McCarthy appeared on behalf of Farset Mohammad, 27, in Nova Scotia Supreme Court to begin the process of setting dates for a trial.
Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. Dianne Penfound said Thursday that Mohammad was arrested and charged in July 2016 for an alleged sexual assault in a cab in downtown Halifax reported to police in June 2015.
Mohammad’s case will be back in court for a pre-trial conference on March 29, and then again on April 6 to set dates for his trial. He’s elected to be tried by a Supreme Court judge alone.
Municipal spokesperson Brendan Elliott said Thursday Mohammad’s taxi licence was suspended pending the outcome of legal proceedings the day after he was charged. He hasn’t appealed that suspension.