Samandeep Singh Gill was acquitted last month on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder after a B.C. Supreme Court judge excluded evidence that was key to the prosecution’s case. (RCMP)

Samandeep Singh Gill was acquitted last month on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder after a B.C. Supreme Court judge excluded evidence that was key to the prosecution’s case. (RCMP)

B.C. murder cases in jeopardy as accused killer walks free, police slammed for ignoring law

The case revealed IHIT’s ‘egregious’ policy of not complying with search and seizure law, says B.C. Supreme Court judge

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge says the province’s homicide investigation team’s “systemic, flagrant disregard” for the charter rights of accused may impact hundreds of murder cases.

The police failure was uncovered in the case against Samandeep Singh Gill, who was accused of second-degree murder and attempted murder in a 2011 road rage incident in Surrey, B.C., that left one man dead.

In a decision released online Friday, Justice David Masuhara excluded cellphone evidence gathered against Gill that the Crown said was necessary to its case, prompting Gill’s acquittal.

Masuhara says the cellphones were held by police investigators for almost seven years without a judge’s approval, and the failure to apply for an extension was part of a broader policy in place for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

The court heard homicide investigators were given legal advice in 2007 saying they needed to follow search and seizure rules in order to protect their investigations, yet the rules weren’t followed for another seven years.

The judge says testimony at the trial “indicates that there were likely hundreds of files impacted by the blanket non-compliance policy while it was in effect from 2007-2014.”

Attorney General David Eby issued a statement this week saying the province had hired lawyer Craig Jones to review the ruling and provide an opinion on the possibility of a Crown appeal.

“This is a very important case for a number of reasons, both for the families of the victim in the allegations that are at play, as well as potentially for other cases,” Eby said when asked about the case on Friday.

“If there is a possible avenue for appeal, then I would like to know about it and that’s what I’ve asked Mr. Jones to look at.”

Gill was charged in May 2018 in the death of Manbir Kajla, who was shot and killed in 2011 when he left his vehicle to speak to another driver after a collision. The shooter then fired at Kajla’s wife, but missed.

The Crown said it had an audio recording on an iPhone that allegedly captured the shooting. Its theory was that the recording was a “pocket dial” from one of two BlackBerry phones that was inadvertently captured on the iPhone.

The case went cold, but the RCMP’s Unsolved Homicide Unit picked up the investigation in 2016 and went to court to request continued detention of the cellphones police had seized years before.

Court heard the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, or IHIT, had a long-standing policy not to apply to a judge for evidence extension orders under Section 490 of the Criminal Code.

It began when police learned in 2007 they were contravening the charter by not asking for the continued detention of the evidence.

A memo went out to officers telling them to avoid seeking detention on evidence orders in cases where doing so would draw the judge’s attention to their non-compliance, the decision reads.

“The IHIT policy of non-compliance amounts to systemic, flagrant disregard for charter-protected rights. While I cannot with certainty attribute to the police a deliberate decision not to comply with the charter, I find that the RCMP was at best willfully blind towards the charter implications of the policy and of the over-holding generally,” Masuhara said in his ruling.

“There is something particularly concerning about a police policy of deliberate non-compliance with mandated requirements due to the unilateral prioritization of their preferred investigative methods over following the law.”

Gill’s lawyer, Matthew Nathanson, said in a statement Saturday police are sworn to uphold the law, not break it.

“The fact that they chose to ignore the rules for years even after multiple senior members of the crown told them this wasn’t an option, shows a disregard not only for the requirements of S. 490 of the Criminal Code, but for the rule of law generally,” he said.

Nathanson said the court’s ruling emphasized the need for a remedy to maintain the integrity of the justice system.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC Supreme Court

Just Posted

Ancient Forest Alliance campaigner Andrea Inness walks beside an enormous western red cedar stump in a BCTS-issued cutblock in the Nahmint Valley. (PHOTO COURTESY TJ WATT)
Watchdog: logging practices put Vancouver Island old growth, biodiversity at risk

Forest Practices Board has issues with BC Timber Sales practices in Nahmint Valley near Port Alberni

The mighty Fraser during freshet on May 2, 2021 at Island 22 Regional Park. A new B.C. coalition representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, is calling on B.C. to reverse decades of wildlife and habitat declines. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
Coalition calls on B.C. to invest in wildlife stewardship and habitat protection

Representing 25 organizations, and 273,000 people, they seek to reverse decades of declines

Terry Driver as he looked around the time of the killing of Tanya Smith and the attempted murder of Misty Cockerill in Abbotsford in October 1995. No current photos are available of Driver.
‘Abbotsford Killer’ Terry Driver denied parole, deemed ‘high risk’ to re-offend

Driver murdered Tanya Smith, 16, and seriously injured Misty Cockerill, 15, in 1995

Boats in the Fraser River launched from Barrowtown and Ft. Langley on May 12 to search for the missing fisherman. (Steve Simpson)
Boats search the Fraser River for missing Abbotsford fisherman

Anyone with ‘a boat, time, or a drone’ to help bring Damian Dutrisac home was asked to help

Mina Shahsavar is a fourth-year student in the bachelor of science in nursing program at University of the Fraser Valley and is an employed student nurse at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Submitted photo)
Nursing student in Abbotsford plans for career in critical care

Mina Shahsavar inspired during hospital stays as a child

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
BREAKING: Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

Erik Christian Oun, who worked for the Coquitlam school district, has had his teaching licence suspended for half a year. (Pixabay)
Coquitlam teacher suspended after calling students ’cutie, ‘’sweetheart’ in online messages

Erik Oun’s licence has been suspended for half a year, a decision made by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks during a press conference in the rotunda at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. to use remaining AstraZeneca vaccine for 2nd doses

Health officials say the change is due to the limited availability of the vaccine

A youth plays basketball in an otherwise quiet court in Toronto on Saturday April 17, 2021. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is urging the federal and provincial governments to fight COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on proven public health policy interventions including paid sick leave, and education rather than punitive enforcement measures. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Provinces issued more COVID-19 tickets during 2nd wave: CCLA report

‘A pandemic is a public health, not a public order, crisis,’ reads the report

Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds - Snowbirds 2 - shows off his ‘Jenn Book’ dedicated to Capt. Jennifer Casey. Zoom screenshot
Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read