Lawyer shocked by judge’s racial comments
Defence protests judge’s concern for other ‘dark-skinned’ cab drivers in sentencing
An Ottawa lawyer says he was caught off guard at a sentencing hearing when a judge talked about the ethnicity of a Sikh cab driver convicted of kissing a female passenger last year.
Paul Lewandowski says he is considering an appeal for Jatinder Singh, 37 — sentenced to 30 days in jail Wednesday — on the grounds that his client may have been discriminated against, and what he believes were “massive discrepancies” in the complainant’s account of events.
Judge Peter Coulson told a courtroom Wednesday that Singh’s actions could give other dark-skinned cab drivers a bad reputation.
“The racial undertone wasn’t present throughout most of the trial. To sort of bring it up as a sentencing factor of his own accord I think is something that we are going to have to examine very carefully on an appeal,” Lewandowski told Metro a day after his client was sentenced.
He said Coulson initially remarked that Singh’s actions would reflect on other cab drivers in the city, but then “went a step further to say the Sikh community takes a hit here, meaning the fact that one member of that community does something will reflect poorly on other people in that community.
“You don’t hear that said about white people really, do you?” said Lewandowski. “You’re a white guy, you did this and now other white guys have a bad name.”
Lewandowski said he doubts the racial comments alone are enough grounds for an appeal, but combined with the inconsistencies in the victim’s testimony, he sees potential.
“In all fairness, the witness herself initially said that he tried to kiss her,” said Lewandowski.
“In another statement (she) said (he) kissed her twice, in another statement kissed her once and then in another statement wasn’t sure how many times.”
Singh was given 30 days in jail, which he will serve on weekends so he can still provide for his family. He has 30 days to file an appeal.