Former Abbotsford Hindu priest Karam Vir was sentenced on Wednesday to two and a half years in prison for sexual offences involving two teen girls.
Crown counsel had sought a jail term of three and a half to four years, while Vir’s lawyer had suggested a sentence of 18 months to two years less a day.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neill Brown said, in reaching his decision, he considered that Vir’s public “fall from grace” should serve as a strong deterrent in Vir committing further similar crimes.
Vir was in Canada on a work visa to serve as a priest at Abbotsford’s only Hindu temple – located on Walmsley Avenue – when he was charged with sexual offences that occurred in late 2009 and early 2010 involving two girls under the age of 18.
Brown said Vir’s arrest and subsequent charges led to his being ostracized by the temple, embarrassed in the community, and prohibited from working, meaning he could no longer support his family in India.
“Priests enjoy a special status in the Hindu religion … Mr. Vir keenly felt the loss of that status,” Brown said in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack.
However, Brown also said Vir had abused his position of trust and authority, had not accepted responsibility for his crimes, felt no remorse for his victims, and has refused to participate in any sex-offender treatment programs.
Brown said that although the two teens involved did not provide victim impact statements, their testimony during the trial demonstrated the gravity of the situation.
Both girls testified via closed-circuit TV because they did not want to face Vir in an open court and share intimate details of the offences.
“Both girls feared the shame they believed would come to them and their families, even though they’d done nothing wrong,” Brown said.
He said although the teens are moving forward with their lives, they will always be impacted by what Vir did to them.
Vir had befriended each girl separately and, at first, spent time helping them work through issues with their boyfriends. He had more than 200 phone conversations with one of the teens, including one call that lasted three hours.
The 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, either in the kitchen or in Vir’s living quarters.
Other members of the temple became suspicious about Vir’s behavior and brought their concerns to the Abbotsford Police, who launched an investigation. Vir was charged in November 2010 with two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual assault.
During the trial, Vir’s lawyer argued that the allegations had been made up by a faction of the temple that was upset with Vir having cleaned up the temple’s finances.
He suggested that the girls knew each other and colluded in making up the sexual allegations.
Vir was given credit for the four months he has spent in prison since his conviction in May, leaving him with another two years and two months to serve.
He will be deported to India upon the completion of his sentence.