Canada court finds Hindu priest guilty of sex crimes

  • vancouverdesi, British Columbia
  • |
  • Updated: May 04, 2013 21:40 IST

A priest at a Hindu temple in Abbotsford here has been found guilty of three counts of sexual interference with two young women in his congregation. Karam Vir, 33, was charged in November 2010 with two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose, and one count of sexual assault.

While delivering the verdict BC Supreme Court Justice Neill Brown remanded Vir to custody until his sentence is pronounced in August.

Brown, in reviewing the evidence, painted a picture of long-term friendships that had developed between Vir and the two teenagers over months (girls' identities protected by publication ban).

These relationships of trust were breached when Vir made sexual advances, exploiting the girls, then 17. "I believe their testimony in the way that Vir exploited their trust," Brown said. "I find credible the complainants' evidence that Vir sexually touched them . . . I find both complainants were fearful."

In both cases, the court heard that Vir approached the girls at the temple while they were dealing with struggles with boyfriends. Vir befriended them, offering advice, and built separate friendships with the girls. In both cases, this involved private visits to his living quarters, outings, and long phone calls - hundreds over a few months, some lasting hours.

The first complainant alleged Vir three times forced kisses on her and forced brief sexual intercourse and/or touching her three times before she pushed him away, crying and asking him to stop.

In the other case, Vir gave the girl a ring to "protect her." During their friendship she repeatedly asked Vir to stop talking about wanting to get physically involved with her and resisted his advances, once when he hugged her and tried to touch her chest and again when he pushed her on to a bed after giving her the ring.

The investigation began when members of the Walmsley Avenue Hindu temple approached police with an anonymous letter accusing Vir of sexual interference with a teenage girl in March 2010.

The letter had also been circulated to about 10 businesses in the community.

That same day, one of the girls attended the police station and made a similar statement. She alleged that Vir had kissed her, had touched her inappropriately, and also offered her alcohol.

The trial began in February, and the young women testified via closed-circuit television, expressing to the court that appearing in public with their stories would bring shame on their families.

A woman who testified in Vir's defence stated that he had done an excellent job of getting the temple back in good physical and financial shape since he joined in 2008, but that his leadership rankled some of the temple membership. He was fired shortly after charges were laid.

Vir's sentencing hearing will take place in Chilliwack at 10 am on August 14.


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