Halifax taxi driver charged with sexual assault of female passenger
Published Monday, January 7, 2019 10:27AM EST Last Updated Monday, January 7, 2019 4:51PM EST
HALIFAX -- Police announced a fresh charge of sexual assault against a Halifax taxi driver Monday, as the highly anticipated retrial of another cabbie accused of sexual assault began in the city.
Halifax Regional Police said a 36-year-old man allegedly sexually assaulted a female passenger in his cab early Sunday.
Const. John MacLeod said police responded to a call for help from outside a residence on the Halifax peninsula around 5:45 a.m.
Officers arrested the driver without incident that afternoon.
The accused, who has not been named, was charged with sexual assault and released pending an appearance at Halifax provincial court.
Citing the complainant's privacy, MacLeod did not provide details of the allegations.
"Sexual assault is always extremely serious in terms of the way it needs to be treated and the way we proceed," he said.
The Halifax Regional Municipality, which regulates the city's taxi industry, said the taxi driver's licence had been suspended as of Monday.
"When a taxi driver is charged, their licence is automatically suspended," city spokeswoman Erin DiCarlo said in an email. "This suspension would remain in effect until the trial outcome is determined and then a review would be done."
The latest criminal charge against a Halifax taxi driver -- one of several cases in recent years involving assault accusations against local cabbies -- comes as the high-profile retrial of Bassam Al-Rawi got underway in provincial court.
Al-Rawi faces a charge stemming from an incident in May 2015, after an acquittal was overturned last January by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
The case made national headlines after Judge Gregory Lenehan said in his decision that "clearly, a drunk can consent," sparking debate over intoxication and the capacity to consent to sex.
During the first trial, court heard a police officer spotted a woman in the back seat of Al-Rawi's cab, naked from the waist down with her legs propped up on the two front seats. She was unconscious, and Al-Rawi's pants were undone.
Meanwhile, last spring, Halifax taxi driver Seyed Mirsaeid-Ghazi -- accused of groping a female passenger -- was found not guilty of sexual assault.
In another case, the Crown dropped a sexual assault charge against cabbie Farset Mohammad last May, saying there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
In response to a growing demand for female taxi drivers in Halifax, Crissy McDow launched Lady Drive Her, an airport service with all-women drivers in 2017.
"We launched around the same time (Al-Rawi) was in court and it was kind of a coincidence," she said. "Because of that and other assaults, that's the reason why my phone continues to ring."
McDow said she feels badly that a few drivers are giving the entire taxi industry a bad name.
Still, she said customers -- both women and men -- have their own reasons to request a female driver.
The continuing demand prompted her to start Crissy's Taxi two weeks ago, which operates within city limits as a complement to Lady Drive Her's airport service.
"I have a small team of four ladies and two men to do city runs," she says, noting that the male drivers have been vetted through her.
"I hear all kinds of stories -- women who have been assaulted and they're terrified to get into a taxi, and I can understand that," she said. "Some just prefer female conversation or want to support a female company."
Below is a replay of live updates from court