Suppressed evidence in gang-rape case could have led to acquittal: lawyer

Associated Press

VANCOUVER - The lawyer for a man at the centre of a miscarriage of justice in a gang-rape case says he's trying to find his client in India to get guidance on what to do next.

Paul Briggs says new information released Wednesday, nine years after the man was convicted of taking part in the brutal sexual assault, could have exonerated his client.

But Briggs said in an interview that after he lost the case on appeal, Gurdev Singh Dhillon was deported to his native India.

"It would have had the effect, certainly at the appeal level, the level I was involved in, of actually changing the outcome of the appeal," Briggs said Thursday.

"That is what is so concerning about this."

Dhillon was convicted of sexual assault for his role in the July 2004 attack on the woman in Surrey, B.C. His appeal of the conviction was dismissed in 2006.

Neil MacKenzie, spokesman for the criminal justice branch, said officials became aware in 2011 that evidence about the case was not disclosed to the Crown, and therefore not disclosed to the defendant.

RCMP said it was their own review of the case that year that raised a red flag and determined that the initial investigation "did not sufficiently consider additional avenues regarding other potential suspects."

The sexual assault was described by the B.C. Appeal Court as "violent and serious" and resulted in making the 19-year-old pregnant.

Court heard she'd met two men at a party several months earlier and had spoken to them over the telephone before she agreed to go out with them.

Briggs said court heard the girl was taken to the apartment of a third man, Dhillon.

The Appeal Court judgment said there, she was subjected to a prolonged sexual assault and was physically beaten and threatened with death.

Dhillon's trial lawyer, who was not Briggs, told court Dhillon was "hanging in the background most of the time," the court decision said.

Briggs said the trial was told the woman went to hospital where she was examined by a nurse and her underwear was an exhibit at the trial.

The Crown never submitted any results of tests done on the underwear.

But Briggs said it now appears a DNA test was done and never passed on.

"It turns out, one was done and I don't know when it was done," Briggs said.

"All I know is that after Mr. Dhillon was convicted, his DNA was compared to these other two and found not to match and that was sometime in June 2006."

Briggs argued the appeal in October 2006 and lost.

"If I had had that report, I could have submitted that as fresh evidence to the Court of Appeal and I believe I would have been successful in overturning that conviction on the basis of that report."

RCMP Chief Supt. Bill Fordy, the officer in charge of the Surrey detachment, said the mistakes are concern to the force, as well as the public and he apologized Wednesday.

The case was referred to a special prosecutor in 2011 and earlier this month, sexual assault charges were approved against two men. The two are scheduled to appear in court in Surrey on April 5.

A spokeswoman for the Immigration and Refugee Board confirms Dhillon, a permanent resident but not a Canadian citizen, was deported in 2008.

Briggs said he has had no contact with his client since the appeal was lost and he said he's trying to find him to determine whether he wishes to pursue an appeal of the conviction.

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