UPDATE (Tuesday): Yesterday, the Examiner reported that over a week of trying, police had not been able to locate taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi to serve documents notifying him his case could be brought before the Court of Appeal. There had been multiple, but unconfirmed reports that Al-Rawi had left the country.
However, Chris Hansen of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service confirms taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi has been located in Halifax and served by Halifax Police today, notifying him his acquittal on a charge of sexual assault is being appealed.
There are now no legal barriers standing in the way of an appeal of the Judge Lenehan verdict.
Where is Bassam Al-Rawi? Ten days after the 40-year-old Halifax taxi driver was acquitted of a sexual assault charge that set off a firestorm of protest against Judge Gregory Lenehan, Halifax police are still trying to find the former driver. Unconfirmed reports suggest Al-Rawi is no longer in Canada.
One week after Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service announced it would appeal the acquittal of Al-Rawi, the police are still attempting to locate him to serve documents notifying him his case could be brought before the Court of Appeal. The Crown is appealing on six legal grounds. The graphic facts of the case involve a police officer who discovered a half-naked, passed out female passenger who had with a blood alcohol level nearly three times above the legal limit and a taxi driver with his pants partly down and the woman’s DNA on his lips.
The appeal filed March 6 by the Public Prosecution service says Judge Lenehan erred in law when he said the Crown failed to produce evidence of “lack of consent.” People were outraged by the judge’s remark — “Clearly, a drunk can consent” — made during an oral decision as Justice Lenehan tried to navigate a legal gray area involving concepts of drunk and unconscious.
Since then, a second woman has come forward to accuse Al-Rawi of an alleged sexual assault back in December 2012. At the time, Halifax Police investigated but found not enough evidence to proceed with a charge. Last week, police spokesperson Constable Dianne Penfound said police are now reviewing that file. Police had also investigated and dismissed a 2014 complaint from a third woman who claimed Al-Rawi grabbed her hand and refused to drop her off promptly.
Chris Hansen speaks for the Public Prosecution Service. She says it would be “premature” to comment on whether an appeal of the Lenehan verdict can proceed if Al-Rawi has indeed left the country. Hansen says police have until April 6 to serve the papers. After that, the Canada’s Criminal Code suggests it’s up to the Appeal Court to find a way to notify the person at the centre of the appeal.
The following paragraph is found in the Criminal Code:
Service where respondent cannot be found
678.1 Where a respondent cannot be found after reasonable efforts have been made to serve the respondent with a notice of appeal or notice of an application for leave to appeal, service of the notice of appeal or the notice of the application for leave to appeal may be effected substitutionally in the manner and within the period directed by a judge of the court of appeal.
The Halifax Examiner reached out to lawyer Luke Craggs to ask if he had been in contact with Al-Rawi since his client was acquitted on March 3 and if he knows where he is. Craggs declined to answer those questions claiming that the answers could violate the confidentiality or privileged communications between a lawyer and his client.