SURREY — Maple Batalia’s sister says her family is “very unhappy” and feel they’ve been “victimized again by the judicial process” after the co-accused in her murder received a sentence of 18 months.
“We feel this was not justice,” Roseleen told the Now. “The judicial process has once again victimized our family. This sentence negatively impacts the surviving victims of women who’ve lost their lives to violence.”
Gursimar Bedi, who has been described as the “eyes and ears” of the man convicted of Maple’s murder, was given a sentence of 22 months, minus four months he spent in pretrial custody in court in New Westminster, on Friday (Jan. 27).
Though initially charged with manslaughter, he was found guilty of being an accessory after the fact.
“The Crown was seeking a six-year sentence, and the defence was seeking a conditional sentence,” Crown counsel Wendy Stephen told the Now after the decision.
Former Surrey councillor Barinder Rasode, who has frequently spoken out about domestic violence, was outraged.
“Clearly an 18-month sentence is an indication that the law does not value women’s lives,” Rasode told the Now. “Five years Maple’s mom fought for justice. This sentence is a loss.”
Others expressed outrage online through a Facebook memorial page, RIP Maple Batalia, which has more than 8,000 followers.
“If the justice system represents the people then I for one am ashamed,” wrote Vishal Kumar. “I am sorry for the loss of the Batalia family. I (am) sorry the people have failed you. We need a reform. I hang my head in shame and disgust.”
Rich Carter wrote, “When justice is not served, the system becomes a joke. We need massive reforms and an overhaul of our criminal justice system. I hope the family appeals and fights for a stiffer sentence that fits the crime. Thoughts (and) prayers for the family. Rest in Peace, Maple.”
Maple’s killer and ex-boyfriend, Gurjinder Dhaliwal, was convicted of second-degree murder. Last March, he received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 21 years.
Maple’s is not the first high profile case of fatal domestic violence in B.C.’s South Asian community.
Poonam Randhawa was 18 years old when she was killed by her ex-boyfriend Ninderjit Singh in 1999.
He was hunted down in California in August 2011, some 14 years later, and pled guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder in 2013. He received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 16 years.
The court heard Singh asked friend Paul Aulakh to drive him to find Randhawa the night of the murder. She had recently broken up with him. Aulakh provided police with details of the final minutes of her life after signing an immunity agreement.
Surrey teacher Mangit Panghali was another fatal case of domestic abuse in the South Asian community in Surrey.
The 31-year-old was last seen alive at a prenatal yoga class in October 2006. It took her husband more than 24 hours to file a missing person’s report.
Five days later her body was found.
Her husband Mukhtiar was arrested and convicted of second-degree murder and interfering with human remains in 2010 and convicted on both counts in 2011.
Raising awareness about intimate partner violence, particularly in the South Asian community, is important to Maple’s sister Roseleen.
“Raising awareness, stopping victim blaming, educating our community and others on this problem has been our No. 1 priority,” she said of her family.
“We don’t get anything out of the community stuff we have done, only the satisfaction that we get from helping to stop another family from going through what we have…. We’ve already lost so many women to domestic violence.”
A report from a B.C. Coroners Service death review panel, titled A Review of Intimate Partner Violence Deaths 2010-2015, notes that an average of 12 people die each year in B.C. as a result of injuries from an intimate partner and that women continue to be murdered at a rate four times greater than male victims.
Azarria Khan of Surrey Women’s Centre noted that in cases that have come through that facility, they’ve found the court system focuses more on rehabilitating offenders than deterrence.
“The courts need to send a message that crimes will not be tolerated in our society,” said Khan, “and should focus a little more on deterrence, but still keep the rehabilitation factor in place.
“The onus is on the Crown to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime did occur. The issue is that the standard of proving beyond a reasonable doubt is very high in the criminal justice system,” Khan added.
With files from Tom Zytaruk and the Vancouver Sun