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Halifax taxi driver gets no jail time on sex assault conviction against 19-year-old passenger

Saher Hamdan was found guilty in August of a sexual assault charge related to a 19-year-old woman he drove in his cab in July, 2016.

Saher Hamdan leaves Halifax Provincial Court in March.

Jeff Harper / Metro

Saher Hamdan leaves Halifax Provincial Court in March.

A former Halifax taxi driver convicted of sexually assaulting his passenger has been handed a sentence with no jail time.

Saher H. Hamdan was handed a four-month conditional sentence by Judge Michael Sherar in Halifax provincial court Thursday, followed by three years of probation. Conditional sentences are served at the person’s home, and Hamdan is under a 9 p.m.- 6 a.m. curfew in this time unless attending his full-time job or a medical emergency.

“(This) was a breach of trust … people who choose to take a cab in this city or elsewhere throughout the country do so generally not only for convenience, but also in many cases for young female customers in the evening hours, for a sense of protection,” Sherar said in his decision.

“They choose somebody to take them safely home, and paying to do so. They want to be offered some security, not be the subject of sexual interference. That is not acceptable. Unfortunately it’s occurred with some frequency in this province and across this country.”

The victim, who was 19 years old at the time (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 on July 15, 2016. She said while parked Hamdan touched her thigh without her consent, reached between her legs to pull a latch and slide back her seat, locked the car doors and asked if he could kiss her, before the friend tapped on the window and she left the car.

The sentencing comes about eight 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.

Addressing Hamdan, who chose not to say anything before the sentencing, Sherar said “through you to others,” that operating as a taxi driver not not give someone an opportunity to impose “sexual desires” onto customers.  

Sherar said he considered other similar cases and sentences, the fact this assault was on the “lower end” of sexual assault scale although consequences to the victim were “terrifying,” plus general deterrence and Hamdan’s own rehabilitation in his decision.

Crown attorney Cory Roberts, who had asked for four months of jail time served over weekends as well as three years of probation, said outside court he was happy with the outcome.

“It’ll deter others like him, other taxi drivers who may think of doing the same, so I think it’s a fair sentence,” Roberts said.

Defence lawyer John O’Neill had asked for probation alone, and suggested halfway between his submission and the Crown’s would be a conditional sentence served at home.

HRM has said that Hamdan’s taxi license is currently suspended pending the outcome of his trial. He has not appealed that suspension.

Hamdan’s sentencing conditions include a weapons ban, provision of a DNA sample, a sex offender treatment program and other counselling deemed necessary.

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