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Premier Stephen McNeil weighs in on sexual assault acquittal

Family has gone through 'a traumatic experience,' he says

3 min read
caption Premier Stephen McNeil
Caora McKenna
caption Premier Stephen McNeil
Caora McKenna

Premier Stephen McNeil told reporters Thursday he felt compassion for the woman at the centre of a controversial sexual assault acquittal.

“To me it’s a little bit disheartening; this family has obviously gone through a traumatic experience,” said McNeil said of the ordeal.

Bassam Al-Rawi was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her 20’s in May 2015. The woman was passed out, inebriated and partially naked, in the back seat of Al-Rawi’s taxi.

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Al- Rawi was acquitted on March 1, 2017. In the final decision, Lenehan  is quoted saying, “this does not mean, however, that an intoxicated person cannot give consent to sexual activity. Clearly, a drunk can consent.”

Referring to Lenehan’s decision and statements, McNeil said it’s been “very troubling for a lot of Nova Scotians.”

The victim’s blood alcohol content was 223-244 milligrams per cent, which means she was over two times the legal limit that would have allowed her to operate a motor vehicle. Canadian law limits not remembering as a defence, if it’s due to intoxication.

There is an online petition with over 13,000 signatures to launch a formal inquiry into Lenehan. It claims he has a bias against women.

Progressive Conservative leader, Jamie Baillie wrote a letter to Justice minister Diana Whalen on Monday asking for, “an immediate inquiry into the conduct and approach of Judge Lenehan in the case brought against Al-Rawi.”

“The outcome of this case and its conduct are very much at odds with the public interest,” wrote Baillie.

Whalen told reporters on Thursday that “rewriting the laws of consent is not on her list right now.”

Stats on sexual assault in Canada:

       One out of every four North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime.

       94 out of 100 sexual assaults go unreported.

      Over 80 per cent of sexual assault victims are women.

      When prosecuted as an indictable offence, sexual assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

Check out other myths and facts about sexual assault in Canada at

If you, or someone you know, has been the victim of sexual assault, you can report it to the Halifax Police at 1 (902) 490- 5016.

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