Calgary reservist avoids jail

A Canadian Forces reservist has avoided jail for his role in a deadly training accident in Afghanistan three years ago.

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 in Calgary late last year of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty.

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.

The prosecution had argued that Watts, who was the platoon commander, didn't enforce safety standards and abdicated his duty as leader when he handed over responsibility to Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale.

The defence suggested Watts's blame worthiness was on the low end of the scale, since no one could have predicted what his lawyer called a "freak accident."

"He should only receive a very minimum sentence ... a reprimand," defence lawyer Balfour Der said after a sentencing hearing last month.

"Maj. Watts was found guilty, but it's as marginal as it can be," he added.

The prosecution had argued that Watts should spend time behind bars.

"There's little evidence of remorse from Maj. Watts or that he has accepted responsibility for his actions," Maj. Dylan Kerr argued during the hearing.

Kerr suggested a message must be sent about Watts's part in the accident and called for 18 months in jail.

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

Videos show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the test. They are not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover as set out in safety regulations.

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