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Canadian soldier up for sentencing

Sentencing arguments are to begin today for a Canadian Forces reservist found guilty in an Afghanistan training accident that killed one soldier and seriously injured four others.

Maj. Darryl Watts was found guilty last month by a military jury of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty.

Cpl. Josh Baker died when a Claymore anti-personnel mine loaded with 700 steel balls peppered his platoon on a practice range near Kandahar city in February 2010.

The maximum sentence for unlawfully causing bodily harm is imprisonment of up to 10 years. Negligent performance of duty can bring dismissal with disgrace from the Canadian Forces. Watts could also be demoted and face a severe reprimand.

"He's worried about that. I'm sure the prosecution will seek jail. They'll probably try to have him kicked out of the army and that's something we're going to fight against hard," said his lawyer, Balfour Der, following the conviction.

"Maj. Watts still wants to be in the army. He is a soldier. He is a good soldier and wants to be there and we're going to fight like hell to keep him there."

Watts was found not guilty of manslaughter and breach of duty.

The prosecution had argued that Watts, who was the platoon commander, turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader when he handed over responsibility to his second-in-command, Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale, who was an expert on the weapon.

The day of the accident, the range was divided into four training sections. The first two tests of the anti-personnel mine went off without a hitch. But when the second firing occurred, the ball bearings fired backward, hitting Baker and the others.

Videos show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the test. They were not inside or behind armoured vehicles for cover, as set out in Canadian Forces safety guidelines.

Watts's commanding officer, Maj. Christopher Lunney, pleaded guilty to negligent performance of duty in September and was demoted to captain and given a severe reprimand.

Der said his client still feels deep remorse for Baker's death but doesn't deserve jail time or to be dismissed from the military.

"I'll be arguing that man should not be going to jail and if there's going to be some repercussions to his service record, that it just be the minimum that it can possibly be."

A court martial is to be held for Ravensdale later this year.

The Canadian Press


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