Sajan Singh lured two children into quiet rooms inside a West Auckland gurudwara and inappropriately touched their bottoms on separate occasions in 2017, the court heard.
A 32-year-old Sikh priest was found guilty of six charges of sexual conduct with a child at an Auckland District Court last week.
Sajan Singh lured two children aged eight and twelve into quiet rooms inside a west Auckland gurdwara in 2017 and inappropriately touched their bottoms on separate occasions, the court heard.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges, last month.
During the trial, the older girl said in her statement to the court that the first time Mr Singh touched her was when she had walked into the storeroom located on the rear side of the langar hall (eating hall) to fetch flour.
Mr Singh groped her bottom three times on separate occasions that day alone, that “shocked and terrified her,” the court heard.
The child’s parents informed the police after she told her mother about the encounters nearly two years ago. It is then that they discovered that theirs was not the only child who had been assaulted by Mr Singh.
Speaking to Stuff, the girl’s father said that he was proud of his daughter for outing this man who was serving at a position that is well "trusted" within the community.
“There's this blind faith and trust for people in high positions, in religion, that makes people doubt victims because they simply don't believe a priest could do these things,” he said.
Calling the incident "unfortunate", New Zealand’s Member of Parliament Kanwalijit Singh Bakshi called for better vetting of prospective employees by the temple management.
“It is unfortunate that one of the preachers who we as a community look up to as a role model has committed such a crime. I, as a member of our community, and the entire community are disappointed, to say the least,” he told SBS Punjabi.
“Going forward I request all Gurudwara management committees to take necessary checks and complete due diligence,” Mr Bakshi added.
Mr Singh had first travelled to New Zealand in 2015 as the holder of a religious worker visa and later re-entered the country in January 2017 on the same visa which expired in October 2017.
He applied for an extension of his visa, which was declined after he was charged with criminal offences later in the same month. Mr Singh then appealed the Immigration's decision in the Tribunal, which too was rejected in April 2018.
His two brothers also live in NZ and were priests at the gurudwara when the incidents occurred.
Mr Singh is currently out on bail and is awaiting his sentence hearing slated for September. His lawyer told Stuff, that Singh would be deported to India after completion of his sentence.