Trial starts for Hindu priest charged with sex offences

Karam Vir of Abbotsford is accused of offences involving two young women, who said they are fearful of testifying in open court.

Karam Vir

Karam Vir

A complainant in a sex assault cause involving Hindu priest Karam Vir from Abbotsford stated in an affidavit that testifying in open court would cause her to be shunned by the Indo-Canadian community.

Portions of the woman’s affidavit, and that of a second complainant, were referenced Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack.

Vir’s trial was slated to begin on two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose (sexual exploitation) and one count of sexual assault.

The proceedings were delayed a day, as Crown counsel Sylvia Domaradzki presented an application that would allow the two women to testify during the trial via closed-circuit television.

Both women said they were fearful of facing Vir, 33, in person and of sharing among strangers intimate details of the alleged offences.

“I think I would be shunned for life … Speaking in an open court would ruin my family’s dignity,” one stated in her affidavit.

The other said seeing Vir in court would case her to “freeze on the stand” and be unable to provide thorough testimony.

Justice Neill Brown supported the Crown’s application. He said the witnesses testified over closed-circuit TV during Vir’s preliminary inquiry, and there were no issues.

If any problems arise with their testimony during the trial, they can be addressed at that time, Brown added.

“I am satisfied that the accommodation will not interfere with a fair hearing,” he said.

Vir was a priest at Abbotsford’s only Hindu temple – located on Walmsley Avenue – when he was charged in November 2010.

An investigation began in March of that year, when a group from the temple went to the Abbotsford Police Department with concerns about alleged “improper conduct” on the part of the priest.

During the police investigation, two girls allegedly reported that they had interactions with Vir.

The two complainants were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences.

Sexual exploitation charges are considered in cases when a person is in a position of trust or authority over the complainant.

Vir is also before the courts on three counts of uttering threats and one count of assault in separate incidents supposedly occurring in the fall of 2009 and 2010. In one case, he allegedly threatened a 52-year-old man and grabbed him by the arm. In the other, he apparently threatened a 51-year-old man.