BC Prosecution Service and Homicide Team in a dilemma after judge acquits Samandeep Gill

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has disgraced itself: If cops don’t follow the law, who will?

THE BC Prosecution Service (BCPS) are scrambling to deal with a veritable dilemma as a host of murder cases may well be in jeopardy after Samandeep Singh Gill, who had been charged in 2018 with second-degree murder in the 2011 death of Manbir Singh Kajla and attempted murder of Kajla’s wife, was acquitted last March.

The RCMP told the media in 2018: “On the night of April 27, 2011, Mr. Kajla and his new wife, having only been married that morning in Canada, were driving along 68th Avenue and 128th Street, when a minor collision occurred between the Kajla’s vehicle and that of Samandeep Gill. When Mr. Kajla approached Gill’s vehicle, he was shot by a suspect, who then fled the scene. Mr. Kajla was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds and later died in hospital.”

The alleged audio of the shooting recorded on a cellphone that the police seized from Gill’s home was considered inadmissible because of violating Section 490 of the Criminal Code that stipulates that police need an additional court order for holding evidence beyond 90 days.

Manbir Singh Kajla Photo: RCMP

B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Masuhara slammed the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) for doing so in spite of receiving legal advice. Evidence in Gill’s case was held unlawfully for nearly seven years.

Masuhara said: “The IHIT policy of noncompliance amounts to systemic, flagrant disregard for charter protected rights … I find that IHIT, was at best, willfully blind towards the charter implications of the policy.”

He added: “The fact that the police, in this case, sought and received legal advice that explicitly deemed compliance mandatory makes these actions more egregious.”

Gill’s lawyer, Matthew Nathanson, told Global News that the mandatory provisions of the criminal code are rules and not a loophole. He stressed the importance of police abiding by constitutional parameters and respecting people’s constitutional rights.

Nathanson also told Global News that it was “a systemic policy that went to the top of IHIT of basically flouting the law, of deliberately disregarding the law, in what appears to be almost all of their cases, across the board for a manner of years.” Global News reported that, according to audio of court proceedings in March, an IHIT officer only referred to as “Sgt. Ross” was repeatedly advised about Section 490 of the Criminal Code. In January 2008, he conducted an audit of 24 random homicide files under conduct of the Surrey office of IHIT and found 21 files to be in noncompliance with Section 490. He then sent out a memo about complying with that section.

The judge noted in his ruling that a sergeant’s testimony indicated that there were “likely hundreds of files impacted by the blanket noncompliance policy while it was in effect from 2007-2014.”

Kash Heed Photo by Chandra Bodalia

FORMER Solicitor General Kash Heed, who was a senior officer in Vancouver police and later headed the West Vancouver Police Department, told The VOICE on Wednesday: “This is a very, very concerning case. I think a lot of people have to be held to account to what actually took place.”

He noted: “It was standard operating procedure with police departments to ensure that they could legally hold these particular items after they were seized and giving the justification and the reason why. What is very troubling here is when they are actually given legal advice by different sources that are certainly qualified to give them an opinion and you disregard that advice.

“This may have a significant impact on several cases that are before the courts, cases that have gone before the courts where the individuals have been found guilty and any upcoming cases related to the time period where they disregarded the law.”

Heed said: “I believe IHIT has some reason to be very, very concerned with the knowledge and the decision made by the court in this particular matter will have vibrations throughout Canada nationally on agencies that actually flout the law that is here to not only protect them but protect and cover people under the Charter here in Canada.”

He added: “Police leaders and leaders that I know that are still active in policing are absolutely alarmed by this particular practice. It has caused them to look into their organizations to make sure that whatever their investigators are doing that they are following the letter of the law. There are no shortcuts here because shortcuts have caused so many situations …”

Heed said: “We had such a horrific crime that took place where an individual’s murdered, the police supposedly had the evidence but now we are finding that they illegally held the evidence and were finding this well after the fact and this is during a court process. I am very satisfied that our court processes will be comprehensive enough to find these types of problems in policing and how we investigate these particular cases.”