'He believed her:' Halifax cab driver found guilty of sexual assault
Saher H. Hamdan was in Halifax provincial court Wednesday to hear the verdict from Judge Michael Sherar.
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A Halifax taxi driver has been found guilty of sexually assaulting his female passenger, following months of national attention around the issue of taxi sex assaults and a spike in charges against local drivers.
Saher H. Hamdan was handed a guilty verdict by Judge Michael Sherar in Halifax provincial court Wednesday, following a one-day trial on March 29 related to an assault on July 15, 2016.
The victim, who was 19-years-old during the trial (and cannot be named due to a publication ban), said Hamdan picked her up from the Lower Deck in Clayton Park around 8:30 p.m. and drove her to a friend’s house in Halifax. She said Hamdan touched her leg a few times without her consent, reached between her legs to pull a latch and slide back her seat and he asked if he could kiss her, before her friend tapped on the window and she left the car.
“We’re obviously pleased with the verdict,” Crown attorney Cory Roberts said Wednesday outside court, adding he’d written the victim to let her know the decision.
“He believed her.”
The verdict comes about six months after Judge Gregory Lenehan's comments on consent and decision to acquit taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi of sexually assaulting a passenger who was passed out in his cab drew national attention.
This is the second guilty verdict against a Halifax taxi driver charged with sexual assault in the past few years. The first was Ahror Mamadiev who was given a conditional discharge in September, 2015, and currently does not have a taxi license.
Judge Sherar did not go over his full decision in court Wednesday, but Roberts said Sherar stated in the written version, there was “no validity” in the defence’s argument of “honest but mistaken belief in consent” around Hamdan’s actions.
The decision says Sherar found the victim to be a “credible and forthright witness,” and any inconsistencies in her testimony were minor, Roberts said.
Conor Falvey, provincial coordinator with Sexual Health Nova Scotia, said the verdict is “very promising,” and hopes it’s a reflection of education being done in the judiciary around sexual assault, consent, and how trauma can affect victim’s behaviours and ability to testify.
“Seeing a verdict like this is very important for people who may be thinking of reporting an assault, or have discounted it until now … It is important for people to know that there’s at least a chance they’ll be taken seriously,” Falvey said Wednesday.
A Casino Taxi manager testified Hamdan drove for their company until charges were laid in August 2016. HRM confirmed Wednesday that Hamdan’s taxi license is currently suspended pending the outcome of his trial. He has not appealed that suspension.
Hamdan has been released on probation until his sentencing on Oct. 12.