Man deported to India for sex conviction wants to return to Canada to pursue exoneration

WENDY COX
THE CANADIAN PRESS

RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy of Surrey, shown in a December 2012 file photo, apologized Wednesday for errors made in the investigation of a 2004 sex assault that erroneously led to the conviction and deportation to India of Gurdev Singh Dhillon, who has since said he would like to return to Canada and fight the misscarriage of justice. Ric Ernst/PNG files

VANCOUVER — The lawyer for a man at the centre of a miscarriage of justice in a gang-rape case says his client wants to return to Canada and appeal the conviction.

Gurdev Singh Dhillon was convicted of sexual assault for his role in the July 2004 attack on a woman in Surrey, B.C., and was deported to India in 2008 after his appeal was dismissed.

But lawyer Paul Briggs says new information released Wednesday by the criminal justice branch could have exonerated his client.

“Spoke to him this morning, in fact,” said Briggs on Friday. “He’s expressed a desire to return to Canada and pursue any and all legal remedies that he may have.”

But before any appeal can be launched, Briggs said he will have to obtain evidence that has not yet been disclosed to him.

Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the criminal justice branch, said officials became aware in 2011 that evidence about the case was not disclosed to the Crown, and therefore not disclosed to the defendant.

The RCMP said it was their own review of the case that year that raised a red flag and determined that the initial investigation “did not sufficiently consider additional avenues regarding other potential suspects.”

The sexual assault was described by the B.C. Appeal Court as “violent and serious” and resulted in making the 19-year-old pregnant.

Court heard she’d met two men at a party several months earlier and had spoken to them over the telephone before she agreed to go out with them.

Briggs said court heard the girl was taken to the apartment of a third man, Dhillon.

The Appeal Court judgment said once there, she was subjected to a prolonged sexual assault and was physically beaten and threatened with death.

Dhillon’s trial lawyer, who was not Briggs, told court that Dhillon was “hanging in the background most of the time,” the court decision said.

Briggs said the trial was told the woman went to hospital where she was examined by a nurse and her underwear was an exhibit at the trial.

The Crown never submitted any results of tests done on the underwear but Briggs said it now appears a DNA test was done on the piece of clothing and never passed on.

“It turns out, one was done and I don’t know when it was done,” Briggs said.

“All I know is that after Mr. Dhillon was convicted, his DNA was compared to these other two and found not to match and that was sometime in June 2006.”

Briggs argued the appeal in October 2006 and lost.

“If I had had that report, I could have submitted that as fresh evidence to the Court of Appeal, and I believe I would have been successful in overturning that conviction on the basis of that report.”

RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, the officer in charge of the Surrey detachment, said the mistakes are a concern to the force, as well as the public and he apologized Wednesday.

The case was referred to a special prosecutor in 2011 and earlier this month, sexual assault charges were approved against two men.

The two are scheduled to appear in court in Surrey on April 5.

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