Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Reservist avoids jail for role in deadly training accident

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CALGARY -- A Canadian Forces reservist has avoided jail for his role in a deadly training accident in Afghanistan and is being allowed to stay in the military.

But Maj. Darryl Watts is being demoted by two ranks to lieutenant and is to receive a severe reprimand.

He was convicted at a court martial late last year of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty during the exercise near Kandahar city three years ago.

Cpl. Josh Baker was killed and four other soldiers were injured when an anti-personnel mine misfired and shot hundreds of steel ball bearings in the wrong direction.

Defence lawyer Balfour Der said the sentence could have been worse.

"From what we were working with, it's not a bad sentence. It's a heck of a lot better than this man going to jail or this man being kicked out of the army," Der said Wednesday after the sentencing. "If ever there's someone convicted of a crime who deserves a lenient sentence, it would be this fellow."

Der said Watts, who is a Calgary firefighter, is pleased he's not going to jail and is being allowed to keep his military job. "In other respects, he's not very happy of being convicted or being demoted, but truth be told he probably breathes a sigh of relief."

Der said it's highly probable he will file an appeal of both the guilty verdicts and the sentence.

Cmdr. Peter Lamont, who acted as judge at the court martial, said he did not consider it appropriate to dismiss Watts.

"I believe the offender can continue to make a contribution to the Canadian Forces," Lamont said.

"He can continue to be a highly effective officer," added Lamont. "Rank can be lost... it can also be regained."

Watts stood at attention during sentencing. There was no visible reaction.

Maj. Dylan Kerr, who prosecuted the case, said it's not up to him to decide if his side will appeal the sentence.

Kerr had argued Watts, who was the platoon commander, didn't enforce safety standards and abdicated his duty as leader when he handed over responsibility for safety on the training range to warrant officer Paul Ravensdale.

Ravensdale, who has since retired, was convicted last week of unlawfully causing bodily harm, two counts of breach of duty and one count of negligent performance of military duty. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for next month.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 21, 2013 A13

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