source: http://www.dailycourier.ca/stories_local.php?id=246481 Lawyer quits on accused priest By Staff - Daily Courier - Kelowna, B.C. Saturday, February 27, 2010 A Sikh priest accused of sexually assaulting an underage girl is now without a lawyer and facing more serious charges. Unless he can find a new lawyer, Lahkwinder Singh must appear at his three-day preliminary hearing in April with only a Punjabi interpreter. A judge refused to grant him an adjournment on Friday, after his old lawyer told the court he has a trial in the Lower Mainland at the same time and can‘t represent Singh in Kelowna. The lawyer, Brij Mohan, then withdrew as Singh‘s counsel. Singh was the spiritual leader of Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Temple on Davie Road in Kelowna for seven years. He is charged with sexually exploiting and sexually assaulting the girl, now 17, and physically assaulting his wife in 2008. The girl is Canadian-born and was living with a foster family. Sources say she sought spirituality at the temple and was part of the congregation. Canadian authorities allowed Singh, an Indian citizen, to collect his salary through a work visa. Temple leaders approached police after meeting with his wife and the girl. The teen later gave a 200-page statement to police. Singh was fired after his arrest in January 2009. The federal government raised the age of consent from 14 in 2008, when the girl was 15 and 16. The legislation made it illegal for an adult to have sex with a partner under 16. Crown counsel Debra Pope recently added two counts of sexual touching to reflect the change in the law. The charges allege Singh was in a position of trust when he touched the girl for a sexual purpose before her 16th birthday. Kelowna lawyer Clarke Burnett represented Singh until earlier this month. Mohan told the court his client needs a lawyer who can speak Punjabi for such a complicated case. The matter was set for trial in provincial court April 27-29. Mohan re-elected to B.C. Supreme Court and said Singh wants a preliminary hearing first. Judge Betton accepted the re-election to a higher court. He rejected Singh‘s application for an adjournment because the next available court dates would be in January. He said Singh knew there was a conflict over dates when he retained Mohan. “There is a balance between the need and interest of Mr. Singh to have a fair trial and have his counsel of choice. There‘s also the interest of society that his matter is brought to trial in a reasonable way . . . and is reasonably expedited,” Betton said. Singh next appears in court for a pretrial conference on Friday.