The B.C. Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a young Kelowna man who sexually assaulted his coworker and classmate in 2019.
Gurpreet Singh Gill, 21, was convicted after a trial of sexual assault and sentenced to a four-month conditional sentence order — a sentence served in the community — followed by two years of probation.
Gill, who was found guilty by a provincial court judge, filed an appeal to the BC Supreme Court on several fronts, an effort that failed according to a recent ruling.
Prior to the sex assault, Gill and the victim were both attending Okanagan College and had met at work in Kelowna. They were not romantically involved, with the victim being an 18-year-old recent immigrant from India. Gill was 19 at the time.
At trial the victim testified that after initially refusing Gill’s offers to “watch a movie with me at night,” she visited him at his home on the afternoon of March 8, 2019.
Upon arrival, Gill wanted her to go into his room as opposed to the living room. The victim testified that she told him, “Okay, we’re just friends.” Once inside the room, Gill locked the door and took her cell phone away and put it on a table next to the bed.
The victim testified that Gill “offered me to watch a movie,” to which she responded she did not feel comfortable and had to leave. Gill started the movie anyways on his laptop computer and she eventually agreed.
After about 15 minutes, Gill began to slowly make unwanted advances, eventually forcefully hugging and kissing the victim. Her vocal rejection kept him at bay for about 15 minutes, until he attacked and held her arms down while biting and attempting to undress her.
“His hand is on my jeans button and, like – and I grabbed his hand and forcefully, like, ‘Don’t do it,’” the victim testified, adding Gill then tried to remove her jacket and sweater.
“So, like, after that, he put his left arm away and, like, start forcing all these things. And, like, he throw me on the bed and he got up on me and start, like, trying to do sex with me,” the victim testified, explaining she was unable to leave quickly because of the locked door.
The victim testified that Gill assaulted her or lay on top of her three different times.
Once she left Gill’s apartment she told friends what happened and contacted the police, who took photos documenting a bruise or contusion on her neck and another injury on her collarbone.
Gill testified at trial in his own defence and denied all the allegations beyond suggesting that they watch a movie together in his bedroom.
The trial judge ultimately accepted the victim’s version of events, finding Gill’s testimony “lacking in detail and disjointed.”
In his appeal, Gill claimed certain parts of the trial and the evidence were mishandled. But BC Supreme Court Justice Robert Jenkins found all of the issues raised in the appeal were “generally irrelevant” to Gill’s conviction.
“It is not for a reviewing judge to assess each and every conclusion reached by the trial judge or to second guess each statement of the trial judge,” Jenkins wrote. “It is for this court to determine whether the assessments made by the trial judge could be supported on a reasonable view of the evidence.”
Gill also tried to argue at appeal that the court “should have asked itself” if it was plausible for a sex assault victim to not leave the home as quickly as possible after the assault, as was the case with Gill’s victim.
“I cannot speculate what a person who has been sexually assaulted may or may not do,” the trial judge reportedly stated, which the superior judge found to be the correct response.
“The trial judge was right to remind herself that it is improper to draw inferences relating to credibility where she is expected to compare the behaviour of the complainant with some mythical standard,” Jenkins ruled.
Jenkins ultimately rejected the appeal and upheld Gill’s conviction.