Samandeep Singh Gill was acquitted last month on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder after a B.C. Supreme Court judge excluded evidence that was key to the prosecution’s case. (RCMP)

Samandeep Singh Gill was acquitted last month on charges of second-degree murder and attempted murder after a B.C. Supreme Court judge excluded evidence that was key to the prosecution’s case. (RCMP)

B.C. murder cases in jeopardy as accused killer walks free, police slammed for ignoring law

The case revealed IHIT’s ‘egregious’ policy of not complying with search and seizure law, says B.C. Supreme Court judge

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge says the province’s homicide investigation team’s “systemic, flagrant disregard” for the charter rights of accused may impact hundreds of murder cases.

The police failure was uncovered in the case against Samandeep Singh Gill, who was accused of second-degree murder and attempted murder in a 2011 road rage incident in Surrey, B.C., that left one man dead.

In a decision released online Friday, Justice David Masuhara excluded cellphone evidence gathered against Gill that the Crown said was necessary to its case, prompting Gill’s acquittal.

Masuhara says the cellphones were held by police investigators for almost seven years without a judge’s approval, and the failure to apply for an extension was part of a broader policy in place for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

The court heard homicide investigators were given legal advice in 2007 saying they needed to follow search and seizure rules in order to protect their investigations, yet the rules weren’t followed for another seven years.

The judge says testimony at the trial “indicates that there were likely hundreds of files impacted by the blanket non-compliance policy while it was in effect from 2007-2014.”

Attorney General David Eby issued a statement this week saying the province had hired lawyer Craig Jones to review the ruling and provide an opinion on the possibility of a Crown appeal.

“This is a very important case for a number of reasons, both for the families of the victim in the allegations that are at play, as well as potentially for other cases,” Eby said when asked about the case on Friday.

“If there is a possible avenue for appeal, then I would like to know about it and that’s what I’ve asked Mr. Jones to look at.”

Gill was charged in May 2018 in the death of Manbir Kajla, who was shot and killed in 2011 when he left his vehicle to speak to another driver after a collision. The shooter then fired at Kajla’s wife, but missed.

The Crown said it had an audio recording on an iPhone that allegedly captured the shooting. Its theory was that the recording was a “pocket dial” from one of two BlackBerry phones that was inadvertently captured on the iPhone.

The case went cold, but the RCMP’s Unsolved Homicide Unit picked up the investigation in 2016 and went to court to request continued detention of the cellphones police had seized years before.

Court heard the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, or IHIT, had a long-standing policy not to apply to a judge for evidence extension orders under Section 490 of the Criminal Code.

It began when police learned in 2007 they were contravening the charter by not asking for the continued detention of the evidence.

A memo went out to officers telling them to avoid seeking detention on evidence orders in cases where doing so would draw the judge’s attention to their non-compliance, the decision reads.

“The IHIT policy of non-compliance amounts to systemic, flagrant disregard for charter-protected rights. While I cannot with certainty attribute to the police a deliberate decision not to comply with the charter, I find that the RCMP was at best willfully blind towards the charter implications of the policy and of the over-holding generally,” Masuhara said in his ruling.

“There is something particularly concerning about a police policy of deliberate non-compliance with mandated requirements due to the unilateral prioritization of their preferred investigative methods over following the law.”

Gill’s lawyer, Matthew Nathanson, said in a statement Saturday police are sworn to uphold the law, not break it.

“The fact that they chose to ignore the rules for years even after multiple senior members of the crown told them this wasn’t an option, shows a disregard not only for the requirements of S. 490 of the Criminal Code, but for the rule of law generally,” he said.

Nathanson said the court’s ruling emphasized the need for a remedy to maintain the integrity of the justice system.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC Supreme Court

Just Posted

Transit Future Action Plan for Chilliwack and FVRD aimed at increasing services over five years and restoring ridership to pre-COVID levels. (BC Transit)
Future planning for Chilliwack transit aims to restore ridership lost to pandemic

Transit future plan envisions adding peak buses and service hours over next five years

Items seized by RCMP during a May 13 raid on Butchart Street. (RCMP photo)
Chilliwack RCMP seize guns and drugs during raid on Butchart Street property

Police executed a search warrant on a home May 13, arresting one man at the scene

Vancouver Canucks’ Jake Virtanen (18) and Calgary Flames’ Josh Leivo, front right, vie for the puck as goalie Jacob Markstrom, back left, watches during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, on Saturday, February 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen sued over alleged sexual assault

Statement of claim says the woman, identified only by her initials, suffered physical and emotional damages

Looking out over the Fraser Valley from Chipmunk Ridge from the proposed Bridal Veil Mountain Resort. (BVMR)
Chance to ask questions about gondola resort proposal near Chilliwack

Project team for Bridal Veil Mountain Resort is holding another virtual info session

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, at press conference Monday. (Submitted photo)
Crime Stoppers receiving $200K from province for ‘Guns and Gangs’ tip line campaign

Executive director Linda Annis broke the news Monday morning in Surrey

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Vancouver Police Department)
Vancouver police ID 6 gangsters who pose a ‘public safety risk,’ launch gang task force

VPD asking public to stay away from these six people, who they say may be targeted in shootings

(Kamloops This Week)
Puppy’s home in question as BC Supreme Court considers canine clash

Justice Joel Groves granted an injunction prohibiting the sale or transfer of the dog

Kayak the humpback whale was found dead on a Haida Gwaii beach on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Marine Education and Research Society)
Kayak the humpback whale found dead on Haida Gwaii beach

Whale was estimated to be only 18 years old

Then-finance minister Kevin Falcon presents his last B.C. budget, Feb. 21, 2012. The province was emerging from the 2009-10 recession and repaying federal incentive to cancel the harmonized sales tax. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Political veteran Kevin Falcon set for second run at B.C. Liberal leadership

Vancouver MLA Michael Lee announces on the same day

Most Read