Regina v. Jatin Patel was heard in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Man accused of Surrey Safeway bum-pinching loses appeal

The case centred on an incident involving a 13-year-old girl in 2015

A man accused of pinching a young girl’s bottom in a Surrey grocery store has lost an appeal of his sexual touching conviction.

Jatin Patel denied the allegation, but the trial judge believed the girl’s version over his. There is a publication ban on evidence that could identify the victim.

The appeal was heard in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, with Justice Frits Verhoeven presiding.

“I am unable to conclude that the decision of the trial judge is unreasonable, or unsupported by or contradicted by the evidence, or clearly wrong,” Verhoeven decided. “No palpable and overring error has been shown.”

Verhoeven noted the case depended on the trial judge’s assessment of credibility.

“Substantial deference must be allowed on an appeal of this nature,” he stated in his reasons for judgment. “No legal error was suggested in argument and none has been identified. There is no basis upon which the verdict could be set aside. The appeal is dismissed.”

The case centred on a incident in a Safeway grocery store in Surrey in 2015.

The court heard the 13-year-old girl went with her mom and younger brother to buy ice cream and chocolate topping. She accused Patel of pinching her bottom in an aisle as he walked by.

The mom, who cannot be identified, testified Patel stood next to her, also looking at ice cream behind the glass freezer doors. She told her kids to step back and give him room to get his ice cream, but instead of stepping forward, she said, he looked at her and walked away.

She testifed Patel “seemed a little creepy.”

Later, the mom and kids were in the toppings aisle when Patel passed by and allegedly pinched or grabbed the girl’s right buttock. She told her mom, her mom confronted Patel and he walked away, denying he touched the girl but that if he did, it was accidental.

The mother testified that she thought he was staring at her daughter’s bottom when he entered the toppings aisle and watched him closely but didn’t see him stop or touch the girl.

After Patel passed by, she told the court, her daughter said “Mom, he just touched my butt.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“He just touched my butt,” she replied.

“Maybe he brushed you, maybe he accidentally bumped you.”

“No,” the girl said, and demonstrated a grab or squeeze with her hand.

The girl told the court “we were looking for a topping for our ice cream and that is when I felt him pinch my butt for about five seconds.”

The mom said she twice asked Patel “Hey, did you just touch my daughter” and he denied it both times. She complained to the store manager and police arrested Patel at the store.

One of the officers who arrested him, Constable Maharaj, testified that while he was booking Patel the accused told him “I know how to beat this charge, it’s called psychosis.”

Patel testified he was legitimately shopping, denied having stared at the girl’s bottom and making any contact with her at all. He also denied the officer’s claim, saying he might have said something to the effect that “she [is] psychotic.”

The judge who convicted Patel believed the girl, calling her an “impressive witness,” and rejected Patel’s version. At appeal, Patel argued the girl had lied, the judge shouldn’t have believed her and should have acquitted him on a reasonable doubt.

tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com