Belfast Telegraph

Newtownabbey 'holy man' rapist jailed for 13 years

By Michael Donnelly

An Indian faith-healing ‘holy man’ who raped and abused a 12-year-old girl “in a most vile fashion” was finally jailed today for 13 years, after sentencing was adjourned last week when he was rushed to hospital complaining of chest pains.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland, sentencing the 46-year old healer, known as Charanjit, in his absence said that the self-styled holyman could be deported back to his native India at any time.

The Crown Court judge said the Home Secretary’s executive decision could see Charanjit, who later underwent heart surgery at Craigavon Area Hospital, deported now, or at any time while serving his sentences, or on completion of the jail term.

Judge McFarland said Charanjit, who claims to be a member of the Punjabi Armed Police in his native India, cruelly exploited his position to prey upon and manipulate the girl’s family to breach the trust they placed in him and abuse the girl for his own sexual gratification.

“You cruelly exploited the trust placed in you, both by the parents, particularly the mother, and by the child, when you abused the child in a most vile fashion.

"You did this literally under the nose of the mother who was present in the home and waiting expectant in the next room, expecting some form of cure, when in fact her 12-year-old daughter was being raped by you.”

Judge McFarland said the actions of the ‘holy man’ fell into the most serious category as “it involved the sexual exploitation of a child and the use of religion to breach the trust placed in you.”

These actions, the judge said, may have led the victim’s parents to question their own faith.

Last month, a non-repentant Charanjit, from Twinburn Gardens in Newtownabbey, was convicted of a total of eight charges involving four of sexual assault, and two each of rape, and causing, or inciting a child to engage in sex acts.

Defence QC John Orr, said Charanjit continues to protest his innocence.

He also revealed that while awaiting sentence, his client “has been subject to violence from other prisoners”, cannot communicate, given the language barrier, and has been diagnosed with an adjustment order.

Mr Orr also spoke of his client’s “very substantial weight loss” since then, and asked Judge McFarland to make recommendations for deportation to India, which he said would be a “more humane means of serving his sentence.”

During his trial the now 14-year-old schoolgirl, told how, in October 2013, she was brought to Charanjit to be treated for a stomach complaint,  as he was known in the Indian community as a holy man or healer.

The schoolgirl said Charanjit diagnosed a stone in her stomach and then sexually abused her while chanting “stone come out, come out stone.”

Afterwards, Charanjit told her not to tell her parents what had occurred, but to say he had felt her stomach. 

Although she questioned whether this was wrong, she trusted him as he was ‘a respected holy man’.

On a second visit, a few weeks later, Charanjit told her that she had two options - she could undergo a painful operation to remove the stone or he could remove it for her. 

The terrified girl agreed.

She said Charanjit “did the same thing again ... everything the same” and that on this second occasion, he told the girl to tell her family that she had passed the stone.

The court learned that Charanjit began calling at her home, on the pretence of seeing how she was, but instead used the visits, to lift up her clothing, and touch her.

When questioned by police, Charanjit, who returned from India to stand trial, denied anything inappropriate had happened, claiming that he only prayed over a glass of water which was then given to the girl on one occasion.

However, prosecutor Kate McKay said pre-sentence reports on Charanjit concluded that “the defendant assumed a paternal role in relation not just to the injured party but with other members of the family, who looked to him with some reverence.”

Another report revealed the abuse has had a “significant negative impact” on the schoolgirl’s wellbeing, and “absolutely no remorse has been shown to his victim” by Charanjit.

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