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Jail sentence of 3.5 years in ‘devastating’ Chilliwack rape case

‘Need to send a strong message women cannot be objectified, humiliated, and injured,’ judge says
Ruppreet Singh Pawar was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for sexual assault, in decision on Nov. 17, 2023 in Chilliwack Law Courts. (Facebook photo)

A sentencing decision in the rape trial of Ruppreet Singh Pawar was rendered in Chilliwack Law Courts Friday, (Nov. 17), more than five years after the incident.

Justice Andrea Ormiston imposed a jail sentence of three and a half years, or 1277 days on Pawar, 43, for the sexual assault of his co-worker in the early-morning hours of July 18, 2018.

The judge said she found Pawar’s “moral blameworthiness” for the offence “enormously high.”

“He persisted in a continuum of assault of conduct that escalated from kissing to intercourse,” Ormiston’s decision noted about the incident in 2018 that occurred on the bleachers of Chilliwack Secondary School.

The victim was unnamed as the subject of a publication ban.

Although evidence “was not established beyond a reasonable doubt” that the assault had been planned, it was clear Mr. Pawar “made a series of decisions after they met to touch the victim without her consent in ways that violated her sexual integrity,” which ultimately “had a significant impact” on her, in addition to physical bruising, “she suffered emotional and financial consequences.”

There were consequences for her employment, as she and Pawar had worked at the same residential care home in Abbotsford.

Victim-impact statements said the incident caused “deep and long-standing suffering, the physical and psychological impact” that was “profound and life-changing” in its scope.

“The cumulative impact was nothing short of devastating.”

Judge Ormiston said it was an aggravating factor that Pawar “preyed on” her willingness to help him as a colleague in engineering a pretext of meeting in the middle of the night, under which where this offence could occur, which in her view elevated Pawar’s “moral culpability,” in the offence.

Pawar had been found guilty of one count of sexual assault on June 29.

The decision shows Pawar was sentenced on Nov. 17 as a first-time offender.

“In short, this offence stands out as an isolated and aberrant departure from Mr. Pawar’s lifelong history of worthy and prosocial pursuits.”

Mr. Pawar’s counsel had talked about the collateral consequences to family in that Mr. Pawar could no longer work at the care home as a nurse.

“Well, this should be a a foreseeable consequence of committing an offense such as sexual assault,” the justice’s decision continued.

Defence counsel had also put forth the position that Pawar’s moral culpability should have been reduced for “cultural reasons” and that “as an immigrant to this country” he was “disadvantaged in his understanding of the laws of consent in Canada.”

The judge did not accept the suggestion.

“Mr. Pawar has spent most of his adult life in Canada. He has been educated and employed in this country, working in a hands-on, caring profession with the public.

“It’s incumbent on this court to distance itself from counsel’s suggestion that this sentence should send a strong message to the government to work harder in educating new immigrants.

“I agree there is a need to send a strong message that women cannot be objectified, humiliated and injured, but that message is to be sent to Mr. Pawar, and to any other person who would contemplate committing this kind of offence.”

“When I consider Mr. Pawar’s moral blameworthiness for this offense. I find that it is enormously high.

He was described as an intelligent and highly educated man.

“He essentially lured his victim into a vulnerable position on the ruse that he needed her help,” and “exploited the trust” she had in him as a colleague.

The judge noted he had complied with release orders for years between the offence and the conclusion of proceedings.

“The seriousness of this crime is rooted in a long-recognized communal value of respect for human dignity and autonomy,” Ormiston wrote, adding that it is a “fundamental” principle, backed up by case law she cited.

“The wrongfulness of this crime of sexual assault in particular is based in the catastrophic harm that it causes to people,” the justice said.

On whether a conditional sentence would have been more appropriate: “The answer lies in the need to say as loud as the judicial system can say it, that conduct of this kind will simply not be tolerated.”

There were ancillary conditions including those prohibiting firearms possession for 10 years after release, and it prohibits him from possessing any prohibited firearm, restricted firearm, prohibited weapon, prohibited device and prohibited ammunition for life. The offender’s DNA will be taken while he’s in custody.

There was a request that Pawar not be taken into custody that day, pending release by the court of appeals, but that request was denied.

Pawar was told to stand and he was handcuffed by the sheriff.

A woman in the gallery cried out in despair after the sentence was imposed, before breaking into sobs as he was led away.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering city hall, Indigenous, business, and climate change stories.
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