A lawyer who married a woman and got her pregnant, despite already having a wife, has avoided being convicted of bigamy.
His second wife now lives in social disharmony in India, caring for the child, while the father remains conviction-free in New Zealand
Judge Lance Rowe granted Akashdeep Singh Gill a discharge without conviction in the Palmerston North District Court on Friday on a charge of bigamy.
Gill, 38, who was admitted to the bar in 2016, had name suppression until Friday, but the judge said there was no evidence to support continuing it.
* ‘They made me do it’: Judge not impressed man blames others for drinking
* Prominent New Zealand entertainer guilty of domestic violence retains name suppression
* Sikh priest Sajan Singh guilty of sexually abusing children
The man’s wives, however, do have name suppression.
Gill married his first wife in a Sikh ceremony in India in October 2010, with the pair moving to New Zealand soon after.
The pair, who have a child together, separated in June 2017.
Gill was still in contact with his first wife and their child, when he got in contact with a woman in October 2018 via a matrimonial matchmaking website.
They agreed to get married and Gill travelled to India in February 2019 to meet her family and be part of a Sikh marriage ceremony, witnessed by dozens of people, in the Punjab province.
The second wife knew Gill was still legally married, but understood he was going to divorce his first wife.
He did not and, despite getting his second wife pregnant about two months after the wedding, moved back to New Zealand in August 2019.
Gill told police he knew he was still married at the time of the second marriage, but claimed he did not know the second marriage would be a registered legal marriage.
He was still married to his first wife as of Friday.
The second wife, appearing via an audio-visual link from India, called Gill a b…… when reading her victim impact statement to the court on Friday.
The marriage had cost her financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.
She spent her savings on wedding expenses and was unsure how she would pay for the costs coming out of her illicit marriage.
She had no idea why he left to go back to New Zealand and suffered social stigma being a single mother in India.
“He doesn’t realise what he has done to me and my child.”
One point of contention, which threatened to have the sentencing put off, was the woman’s dowry.
She said she paid $16,450 cash, 500 grams of gold and jewellery and a diamond ring as her dowry – all things she wanted back from Gill.
But police prosecutor Sergeant Kevin Anstis said it would be almost impossible for police to prove the contents of the dowry.
It was not part of the police case, coming up for the first time when the woman filed her victim impact statement.
The judge agreed with defence lawyer Tim Hesketh that the dowry issue could not form part of sentencing.
But he disagreed with Hesketh’s submission the pregnancy was not a result of the marriage.
There was no evidence Gill did anything to divorce his first wife before marrying the second, and the child was as much a victim of the bigamous marriage as the second wife, the judge said.
While the harm to the victim made it a moderately serious case of bigamy – it would have been extremely serious if the dowry issue had been proven – consequences of conviction to Gill outweighed the seriousness of the case, the judge said.
While a senior lawyer said in an affidavit they were not totally sure how a conviction would impact Gill’s ability to practice law, it was Gill’s family situation which tipped the balance towards a discharge.
He wanted to work and live in Canada, where his sister lived, but an immigration expert said a conviction would bar Gill from entering there for a decade.
A discharge without conviction meant there might be no bar to entry.
The judge said the decision to discharge without conviction, something which has happened with New Zealand bigamy cases before, was a very tight-run thing.
Gill must pay the second wife $5000 in emotional harm reparation.