Crown seeks up to four years for Hindu priest convicted of sex offences

Karam Vir was previously found guilty of three charges involving two teenage girls at the Hindu temple in Abbotsford.

Karam Vir at a previous court appearance in Chilliwack.

Karam Vir at a previous court appearance in Chilliwack.

A Hindu priest’s “fall from grace” after being convicted of sex offences involving two teenage girls should be considered when determining his sentence, the man’s lawyer stated Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court.

Brij Mohan said his client, Karam Vir, has suffered greatly since the charges were laid and should serve no more than two years less a day in prison.

“Mr. Vir’s very public fall from grace, the shame he has expressed, his loss of employment, his loss of any future in this and any other country should be considered when determining his sentence,” Mohan said at Vir’s sentencing hearing in Chilliwack.

Crown counsel Sylvia Domaradzki sought a jail term of 3 1/2 to four years, saying Vir abused his position of trust, has not taken responsibility for his crimes, and has refused counselling and/or other treatment.

“Mr. Vir’s stance does affect any prospect for rehabilitation that there may be,” she said.

Vir, 33, was convicted in May of two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual assault. He has been incarcerated since that time.

The charges stem from incidents that occurred between Vir and the girls in late 2009 and early 2010 when he was a priest at Abbotsford’s only Hindu temple, located on Walmsley Avenue.

The girls were under 18 at the time of the offences and did not know each other.

They each met Vir, who came to Canada from India on a work visa, on separate occasions and  established a friendship with him.

Over time, these friendships extended into sexual advances from Vir that included kissing and groping the girls, attempting to have sex with one of them, and exposing himself.

All the incidents took place in the temple.

The allegations were brought to Abbotsford Police by other members of the temple, and Vir was charged in November 2010.

In making her sentencing recommendation, Domaradzki said, although the complainants did not provide victim impact statements, the effect of the crimes was evident in their testimony.

At the start of the trial, an application was approved for both young women to testify via closed-circuit TV because they feared facing Vir in an open court and sharing intimate details of the offences.

One stated in an affidavit that she also feared being shunned by the Indo-Canadian community.

“The impact of (these crimes) … was repeatedly shown through their evidence,” Domaradzki said.

Mohan acknowledged that Vir abused his authority and should be adequately sentenced but, regardless of his time in prison, the result is the same – Vir will be sent back to India upon his release and will never be allowed back in Canada.

“He just wants to serve his sentence and be on his way,” Mohan said.

He said, prior to the charges, Vir was held in such high regard in the temple that people would touch his feet to receive his blessing.

Mohan said Vir came to Canada to support his family, including his widowed mother.

“His family’s dreams of being lifted out of the cycle of poverty have been dashed to the ground.”

Justice Neill Brown is scheduled to rule on the sentencing on Sept. 4.

A sentence of “two years less a day” means an offender will serve time in a provincial correctional centre, such as Fraser Regional in Maple Ridge or Ford Mountain in Chilliwack.

A term of two years or more is considered a federal sentence and requires serving time in a federal prison, such as Kent, Matsqui or Mountain.