B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Accused loses bid to be tried separately in Surrey group beating

Victim beaten with fists and weapons, resulting in injuries to his face, neck, shoulders and back.

NEW WESTMINSTER — A man accused of participating in the beating of a man in Surrey has lost his application to be tried separately from the other men who’ve also been charged with assault causing bodily harm.

The case is Regina v. Sukhdeep Singh Dhaliwal, Chaten Singh Dhindsa, Gurpreet Singh Dhudwal, Davit Singh Randhawa, Karnjit Singh Randhawa and Ravinder Singh Samra.

The six were charged with assault causing bodily harm for a Dec. 6, 2016 incident. Crown alleges Dharminder Brar was lured to a place in Surrey by Dhindsa where he was beaten with fists and weapons.

Dhaliwal has already entered a guilty plea and has been sentenced. The trial for the remaining five is set for 15 days, by jury, to start on March 5, 2018.

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Dhudwal applied, under a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms argument, to be tried apart from his fellow accused because his lawyer is not available for the March trial date.

“If my trial goes ahead in March, I will not be able to have my counsel of choice and may end up being self-represented. The prospect of this causes me great anxiety and stress as I know the Crown is asking for significant jail time should I be convicted,” Dhudwal said in a sworn affidavit to the court.

“I have no real experience with the criminal justice system and would find representing myself to be a really bad idea.”

Justice Carol Ross, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, dismissed his severance application on Dec. 4.

She said the onus is on the accused to show, on a balance of probabilities, that the interests of justice require a separate trial.

“There is a strong presumption in favour of joint trials where the accused are alleged to have engaged in a joint criminal enterprise,” Ross said. “For those persons who are alleged to have conspired to or have committed a crime in concert, separate trials are the exception and not the norm.”

She noted joint trials are “more likely to uncover the truth” and “avoid inconsistent verdicts.” They’re also more efficient and “less dispruptive for witnesses.”

The judge noted the right to counsel of choice “is not absolute. It is subject to reasonable limitations. In considering such an issue, the court must balance the individual right, public policy and public interest in the administration of justice and basic principles of fairness.”

“The right to counsel of choice,” Ross added, ” is a right that will defer to the necessity of a joint trial. The right to counsel of choice in a joint trial must be balanced against the right of the co-accused to be tried within a reasonable time.”

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