British Columbia Supreme Court justice Jeanne Watchuck sentenced Harjot Singh Deo to five years on Tuesday for manslaughter and two for the indignity charges to be served consecutively as they were two separate occurrences.
The then 19-year-old accidentally shot Bhavkiran Dhesi, 19, in the head on August 1 in 2017, CBC News reported.
The court heard the couple had been in his bedroom at his parents’ Surrey home when the gun went off as he attempted to take it from his pocket.
Dhesi collapsed on the bed and Deo did not call for emergency help, instead putting her body in the back of her vehicle and driving to an isolated road.
Manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, Watchuk said.
Watchuk said the blaze was spotted and a fire crew that arrived to put it out found Dhesi’s body in the rear as only the front of the vehicle was burned.
An autopsy revealed multiple skull fractures. Meanwhile, a shell casing was found at the scene and matched the bullet retrieved from the body.
Deo, now 25, was charged in May 2019 with second-degree murder.
He was a month later additionally charged with indecently interfering with or offering an indignity to human remains.
According to Dhesi’s family members, seven-year imprisonment was not enough.
Her cousin Kat Khakh said she was angry when she heard the sentence.
“I don’t understand how they can call that justice,” she said. “The system is more for the criminals and not the victims.”
Dhesi’s uncle Kulwant Dhesi said: “We’re not happy with the sentence. How can we consider manslaughter when they tried to destroy the body?”
“It should be 20 years,” he said.
Deo pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the indignity charge in February.
Watchuck said the explanation of what happened with the shooting was accepted but called the burning of the body a “troubling offence.”
Watchuk said carrying an illegal, loaded firearm, not calling 911 and then burning the body in an attempt to destroy evidence contributed to Deo’s moral blameworthiness.
Crown prosecutor Sameena Nahal asked for a total of 10 years in prison while defence lawyer Richard Fowler said Deo should receive six.
Watchuk heard Deo was involved in the drug trade and carried a loaded weapon out of fear for his safety after his brother was stabbed.
His defence said Deo acted in panic after his girlfriend’s accidental death and did not call 911 because of his involvement in the drug trade.
Deo also had security cameras installed at his parent’s home with a recorder in his room.
Neither the gun nor the recorder was found. Nor were Deo’s or Dhesi’s cellphones.
The judge said the guilty plea avoided the need for the Dhesi family to testify at trial. Further, she said, Deo has turned his life around.
Deo’s mother and sister were also charged as accessories after the fact.
The charges against his sister were stayed, while his mother pleaded guilty to willfully resisting or obstructing a police officer and was sentenced to a conditional discharge, with 12 months of probation and a $200 victim surcharge.