A 57-year-old man has been convicted of sexual assault for an incident over a year ago in which he twice fondled a woman’s breasts while she was collecting rocks at an Abbotsford construction site.
The ruling against Harjinder Singh Gill, 57, was made Oct. 1 in Abbotsford provincial court. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The court heard that Gill did not know the 33-year-old victim at the time of the assault on Sept. 13, 2014.
The woman testified that on that morning, she and a friend had gone to a lot, which was then vacant, at the northeast corner of Trethewey Street and Simon Avenue to collect rocks, a hobby of hers.
The complainant said she and her friend were in different areas of the large property when she began preparing to leave a few hours later and was gathering up the two large bags of rocks she had collected.
The woman testified that she was approached by Gill, who offered to help her with her sweatshirt, which was draped over her shoulders.
She said that as he reached to grab the shirt as he was facing her, he brushed the back of his hands against her breasts and pressed on them.
The woman told him to stop and backed away from him on her bike.
Gill then came around to the woman’s left side and insisted on fixing her sweatshirt. As he put the sleeves over her shoulders, he grabbed her breasts and squeezed, “like testing the ripeness of a cantaloupe,” the woman testified.
She then rode to a friend’s house and called the Abbotsford Police Department (APD), who told her to come by in person to file a report.
On her way there, she went back to the construction site because she was worried about the friend she had left behind.
Gill was still there, and the two friends proceeded to the APD. Officers went to the construction site, located Gill and arrested him.
At his trial, Gill testified that he accidentally came in contact with the woman’s breasts and it was neither intentional nor for a sexual purpose.
During cross-examination of the victim, his defence counsel suggested that the woman had been mistaken about the intent of the incident because she suffers from a social anxiety disorder, resulting in “super sensitivity” to certain situations.
It was also suggested that the woman had gone to the construction site “looking for some action.”
Two police officers testified that Gill appeared intoxicated and was holding an open beer when they arrived on the scene but, during this testimony, Gill denied he had been drinking.
Judge Kenneth Skilnick did not believe Gill’s testimony, saying his statements were often contradictory.
“I believe that he is a witness who is willing to depart from the truth if it puts him in a better light, even when his version of events is clearly contradicted by reliable independent evidence,” he said.
Skilnick said the complainant, on the other hand, “remained unshaken and consistent in her evidence.”
“The manner of the assault described by the complainant was a very deliberate act. The squeezing of the breasts that she described was not something that could have occurred accidentally or unintentionally,” he said.
Skilnick said the assault was “of a nature that would violate the complainant’s sexual integrity and dignity.”