Manjit Adiwal and Preetpal Sangha sentenced to four months in jail for threatening and assaulting Chilliwack lumber mill owner

MANJIT Adiwal, 35, who had “a history of gang involvement with other Indo-Canadian youth in South Vancouver,” and Preetpal Sangha, 29, have each been sentenced to four months in jail followed by 18 months of probation by a B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Grist in Chilliwack for threatening and slapping lumber mill owner Gurpreet Sangha about his head on May 9, 2011.

In a ruling released this week, Grist noted: “While a jail sentence is called for … each has a relatively good prospect of rehabilitation.” The Crown had argued for a sentence of six to 12 months’ incarceration for each accused.

Sangha entered a guilty plea to a charge of uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm, while Adiwal pleaded guilty to assault.

According to the ruling: “The May 9 incident was subsequent to a dispute between the accused Preetpal Sangha and Mr. Gurpreet Sangha who, with Preetpal Sangha’s father and others, owned a lumber mill where Preetpal Sangha worked. The origins of the dispute are unclear. The Crown suggested it had to do with an argument between the partners; the mill appears to have been failing financially. The Crown says that Mr. Preetpal Sangha joined in on his father’s behalf in confronting the complainant.

“The accused’s version was that Mr. Gurpreet Sangha was planning to use part of the mill property as a grow op which the accused felt threatened his father’s investment. However the dispute arose, from about April 1, 2011, there were several angry confrontations between the accused Preetpal Sangha and the complainant, Gurpreet Sangha. This developed into demands by the accused that the complainant pay certain sums of money.

“Shortly before May 9, the complainant contacted the RCMP who reviewed the history of the text messages between the two; and eventually, after the May 9 incident, began an undercover investigation into the actions of the accused.

“On May 9, a meeting was arranged between the accused Preetpal Sangha and the complainant at the mill site. During a prior confrontation, the accused Sangha had threatened to involve other people he knew who he said could cause the complainant trouble.

“ On May 9, he arranged for Mr. Adiwal and several others to accompany him.

“ … The confrontation at the mill consisted of the complainant being accosted by the accused Sangha, Adiwal, and the others with them. The complainant was threatened with being shot. Adiwal slapped him about his head and pointedly asked the complainant if he knew who Adiwal was. The actual assault was more intended to humiliate the complainant in the sight of the mill workers than to cause bodily harm. The attackers left after more talk of the complainant paying money to the accused Sangha.”

GRIST noted that in 2003, Adiwal was arrested on a charge of unlawful confinement. He pleaded guilty and ended up serving the equivalent of a five-year sentence. Adiwal also had a recent conviction for breach of bail conditions involving consumption of alcohol dating from 2012.

Grist pointed out: “Mr. Adiwal and his brother have a history of involvement in criminal activity in association with other Indo-Canadian youth in South Vancouver. Mr. Adiwal left this lifestyle after his brother was very seriously injured after being shot in 2009 and following his arrest on this charge in 2011. Since then, he has been employed as an auto mechanic and body man, working for part of the year in Alberta where his father is employed. He also has participated with Vancouver Police in giving talks discouraging youth from participating in gang activity.

“Mr. Adiwal attributes his willingness to join Mr. Sangha in the effort to intimidate the complainant to a problem he has with alcohol abuse. He says he originally advised against confronting the complainant, but agreed to participate after a bout of drinking. He has been regularly attending a drug and alcohol counsellor since the 2012 incident giving rise to the charge of breach of bail conditions.

“Mr. Adiwal has produced a considerable number of letters of support from family, persons in the community, and his employers.”

Regarding Sangha, Grist noted: “He has no criminal record and has maintained steady employment. He is currently employed with an insurance company. He lives with his parents and provides support for his family. He has produced evidence of support in the community and from his employer.

“In the pre-sentence report prepared for this sentencing, it was noted that the accused Sangha has complied with bail restrictions since his arrest and has expressed remorse.”

Grist said the confrontation was at the mill site in the presence of mill workers and, in his view, designed to publicly humiliate Gurpreet Sangha.

He added: “The public nature of this confrontation supports a sentencing response stressing general deterrence and denunciation.”

Grist said in his ruling: “The actual assault was of minimal physical effect, however, to keep the matter in context, the assault on the complainant was also accompanied by threats he would be shot.”

But he added: “Each accused likely has good prospects of rehabilitation; Mr. Sangha is a first offender. Mr. Adiwal has a limited record, but one that includes a very serious offence. He has, however, taken significant steps to change his life and break away from his previous lifestyle.”

He said he viewed the four-month sentences “as a long enough period of incarceration to get across the seriousness of the offences and yet allow each accused to return to a productive lifestyle after a modest period of incarceration.”

The two were also required to provide a sample of bodily substances sufficient to identify their DNA profile.