The Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre Sexual Assault Services along with organizations working with survivors of sexualized violence are calling for the removal from the bench of Judge Gregory Lenehan following the ruling he made on Wednesday, March 1 that found taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi not guilty of sexual assault.
In his statement regarding the ruling Lenehan noted, “Clearly a drunk can consent”. However, the Criminal Code Section 273, A Definition of Consent to Sexual Activity, clearly states no consent is obtained, “where the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity”. This applies to an individual who is highly inebriated or unconscious. Clearly a highly intoxicated or unconscious person cannot consent.
The complainant in this case reported being unable to recall events leading up to her getting into Bassam Al-Rawi’s taxi. Moreover, she was unable to recall the events that took place in the cab. A toxicology report presented by the Crown during the case confirmed that her blood alcohol level was between 223 and 244 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood which indicates a high level of intoxication. Evidence showed the complainant had urinated on herself, indicating loss of control of bodily functioning, further demonstrating she was too inebriated to be capable of consenting to sexual activity. Yet, Lenehan stated that despite the evidence presented by the crown that a sexual act took place and that the complainant was clearly inebriated (in fact, she was unconscious when found by Constable Monia Thibault), he saw “absolutely no evidence on the issue of lack of consent.”
Lenehan’s judgement in this case demonstrates a clear disregard for and lack of understanding of sexual assault and definitions of consent as defined in the criminal code. Judge Lenehan has demonstrated he is incapable of fairly applying the law in cases of sexual assault and, therefore, must be removed from the bench.
Bassam Al-Rawi took advantage of an inebriated woman in his taxi cab. We call upon the HRM Taxi Commission to revoke Al-Rawi’s license permanently.
As a Women’s Centre and Sexual Assault Centre, we work daily with survivors of sexual assault and know the difficulties women face in going through the Criminal Justice system. Reporting rates for sexual assaults are alarmingly low. Not only does Lenehan’s decision impact the complainant in this case, but it discourages women in similar situations from coming forward in the future. We stand with women, in calling for justice for sexual assault survivors in our legal system.
Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services
Mi’kmaw Family Healing Centres
Avalon Sexual Assault Centre
LEA Place Women’s Resource Centre
Persons Against Non-State Torture
Tri-County Women’s Centre
Strait Area Women’s Place
Be the Peace Institute
Every Woman’s Centre
Pam Rubin, private practice therapist
Pictou County Women’s Resource and Sexual Assault Centre
Central Nova Women’s Resource Centre
Source: Media Release