'Party girl' stereotype played role in cabbie sex-assault case: professor

A law professor at Dalhousie University is arguing that the case of a Halifax cab driver who was acquitted of sexually assaulting a woman in his car may have been plagued by legal issues based on a "promiscuous party girl stereotype."

In a draft paper submitted for an upcoming issue of Canadian Bar Review, Elaine Craig suggests that the Nova Scotia provincial judge, Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer who oversaw Bassam Al-Rawi's trial erred by allowing "legally rejected" stereotypes to go unchallenged in the courtroom.

Al-Rawi, 40, was charged after police found a woman in her 20s passed out and partially naked in his car in the early hours of May 23, 2015.

Craig says Judge Gregory Lenehan's ruling in March overlooked circumstantial evidence that the woman did not consent to sexual activity with Al-Rawi and was based on a "pornographic, hypersexualized account" of female behaviour.

Craig says that defence lawyer Luke Craggs' suggestion that the complainant became a "different person" after consuming large qualities of alcohol turns on the assumption that "drunk women will have sex with anyone, anywhere, any time."

Craig suggests reforms, including mandatory sexual assault training for judges and requiring written decisions in sexual assault cases, to avoid statements like Lenehan's assertion that "a drunk can consent."

The Crown has said it will appeal the case on the grounds that Lenehan made multiple legal mistakes in his ruling, including that he engaged in speculation about consent rather than drawing inferences from the facts proven in evidence.