3 Dec 2010

No trial for former Sikh priest charged with sex assault of teen, but police still believe her accusations

CBC News - The Canadian Press April 28, 2010

Sex charges against Sikh priest stayed

The Sikh community in Kelowna is reeling after learning a former priest is no longer charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl.

The Crown stayed all charges against Lahkwinder Singh, including one of assaulting his wife, at the start of his three-day preliminary hearing on Tuesday.

The case collapsed when the girl, now 17, confessed on Monday that she lied about a pregnancy test that she said previously proved Singh was having sex with her.

"I feel very sad and disappointed," said Tarsem Goroya, secretary for Guru Amardas Darbar temple, which fired Singh after his arrest in January 2009. "We still believe there's evidence of [him] doing the wrong thing."

Singh, who's now in his early 30s, was spiritual leader of the temple on Davie Road for seven years.
Girl was in foster care

He was charged with sexually exploiting and sexually assaulting the girl when she was 15 and 16, and physically assaulting his wife in 2008.

The girl was living with a foster family. Sources told the Kelowna Daily Courier she sought spirituality at the temple and was part of the congregation, which supported her to help her deal with the alleged abuse.

As the Crown's main witness, the girl knew Singh's lawyer would spend hours cross-examining her.

On Monday, she confessed to police that she got a pregnant friend to urinate on a pregnancy stick and confronted Singh with it, claiming it was hers.

"What an awful thing to do," Singh's lawyer Brij Mohan said Tuesday.

"It has ruined his life. He's been demoralized in the eyes of the community," Mohan said. "Police just got carried away with her allegations. It's a big slap on the system."

Officers spent considerable time investigating the case, said RCMP Sgt. Joanne Skrine, adding police understand why the Crown had to drop the charges but will not recommend charging the girl with mischief for misleading investigators.

No mischief charges

"I'd hate to depict the girl as someone who plotted to scheme against [Singh]," Skrine said. "The Crown felt this affected her credibility. Police won't look at charging her because we believe what she's telling us."

Temple officials said soon after Singh was arrested that they had learned "something was going on" from another family. They found Singh, his wife and the girl together at the temple.

When questioned, Singh denied the accusations. His wife showed temple officials bruises on her ankle and the girl admitted incidents of a sexual nature had happened, the officials said.

Singh's wife is said to be living somewhere in the Vancouver area. Authorities were unable to subpoena her to testify at this week's hearing.

"Police did their best to find her," said Crown counsel Debra Pope. "It was a tough decision."

Temple leaders have yet to discuss the development but say it's doubtful they'll rehire Singh, an Indian citizen, as their spiritual leader. He now is an orchard worker.

"I know from my point of view he's not coming back," Goroya said.

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Sikh priest faces sex crime and assault charges in Kelowna


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