Sexual assault sentencing sidelined over language issues

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – A Cornwall court has reordered a pre-sentence report (PSR) for a Cornwall man after his lawyer contested some of its contents.

Rajat Bharti, 24, entered two separate guilty pleas earlier this year to charges of sexual assault and breach of recognizance after an attack on a female acquaintance in June 2019 and then being too close to a named person in November 2019 as part of his release conditions.

There’s a publication ban on the case that protects the victim’s identity.

Bharti’s lawyer, Neha Chugh, objected to the fact the interview with the probation officer for the PSR was conducted in English instead of Bharti’s native Hindi language, possibly leading to misinterpretations, and also alleged the officer came to conclusions beyond her expertise and unfairly labelled Bharti as a sexual deviant.

“This is so shallow and without support. It’s offensive to my sensibilities as a lawyer and it’s offensive to the public interest, I would suggest, in the circumstances,” Chugh told Judge Deborah Kinsella.

A pre-sentence report is based on an interview that looks into an offender’s background, their behaviours and feelings, in order for a judge to gauge an offender’s character prior to sentencing.

Crown attorney William Barnes countered that he had not seen a requirement that a pre-sentence report be carried out with an interpreter if the interview had been “happening in English and appears to be going well.”

But Kinsella was not comfortable with proceeding Thursday afternoon – not only with the PSR issues but also the fact there was no interpreter at the proceedings.

“I find, just based on the proceedings in front of me, that there are sufficient grounds for me to be concerned, especially when you’re talking about the important aspect of understanding the consequences of your legal actions,” Kinsella declared.

“The fact that the PSR was done without an interpreter gives me cause for concern,” she added.

Kinsella did not weigh in on the other objections from Chugh, saying that would be addressed once a new report comes back, done with the aid of a Hindi interpreter.

Another pre-sentence report will take at least six weeks to complete. The case will come back to court on Sept. 9 to set another sentencing date.