HALIFAX -- Intelligence and justice officials around the world will be watching today as a navy officer convicted of selling military secrets to Russia becomes the first person to be sentenced under Canada's Security of Information Act.
Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle will appear in Nova Scotia provincial court for a two-day hearing after pleading guilty in October to breach of trust and passing information to a foreign entity that could harm Canada's interests.
The landmark case has captivated legal experts, international allies and intelligence agencies eager to see how the Canadian judicial system handles the treason of one of its own.
The challenge for lawyers and Judge Patrick Curran is how to come up with an appropriate sentence without having case law to consult under the untested act.
"It's going to be a very difficult exercise because there just isn't really a range that's been set out under this legislation," Mike Taylor, Delisle's lawyer, said in an interview Wednesday.
"Although there will be comparisons to the (Official) Secrets Act... things are different and things have changed and the facts are different in those cases.
"We're comparing cases that don't necessarily lie on all fours. They're just not the same thing."
Taylor said he has been searching case law in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada but found little that matches the unique circumstances of the agent who walked into the Russian Embassy in Ottawa in 2007 to offer his services after his personal life began to unravel.
Legal scholars say Curran will have a tricky time settling on a sentence since he will be faced with general sentencing principles that don't fit well with this type of offence, decades-old espionage cases tried under another act and what are expected to be widely divergent recommendations from the Crown and defence.
It's expected the Crown will ask for a hefty sentence in the interests of deterrence and show its allies it's taking the matter seriously.
-- The Canadian Press