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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Accused drug trafficker to plead to federal, provincial charges in June

Matthew Straume said he’d missed his last court date because he was ill

Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks sex crimes trial adjourned until summer

The trial was set to begin at the city courthouse Wednesday, May 5

Photo: Kathleen Saylors
Grand Forks city council votes down motion to support Penticton in paramountcy battle

Coun. Neil Krog insisted Penticton’s issue with Victoria is about city bylaws, not homelessness

The burnt-out remains of a fifth-wheel trailer stand at Highway 3, near the Kettleside RV Park Wednesday, May 5. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks fire department investigating fifth-wheel blaze

Two people in the trailer escaped without injury, according to Dep. Fire Chief Stephane Dionne

Bob Keating was CBC’s Kootenays correspondent for 21 years. He retired last month to start a podcasting company. Photo: Tyler Harper
The voice of the Kootenays: CBC correspondent Bob Keating retires

Keating had reported out of Nelson since 2000

Thursday, Feb. 4: RDKB Chief Engineer Darryl Funk hoists a banner commemorating last year’s championship season by the Bantam House Bruins. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Bantam Bruins honoured at hair-raising banner ceremony at Grand Forks’ Jack Goddard Arena

Asst. coach Mike Tollis said he reluctantly gave in to the team’s victory wish that he cut his pony tale

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

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

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Most Read