Monday, 27 Mar 2023

Canada’s top military judge to be tried by his own deputy in fraud, misconduct case

The Canadian Forces‘ top judge is set to be tried in a court martial this spring that will be overseen by his own deputy, in a case that is shaping up as a test for the military’s judicial system.

Chief military judge Col. Mario Dutil was charged last year over allegations that he had a consensual but inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and knowingly signed a travel claim containing false information. A charge sheet indicates that the claim was for $927.60.

He is facing two counts of fraud, one of willfully making a false entry in an official document, a separate one of wilfully making a false statement in an official document, and four related to conduct or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

None of the charges has been tested in court.

It’s believed Dutil is the first person to be charged while serving as the chief military judge and given the unprecedented nature of the case, it hasn’t been clear how it would proceed — including whether one of the three other military judges he oversees would hear the case against him.

But military spokesman Maj. Doug Keirstead confirmed this week that deputy chief military judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil has been tapped to preside over the court martial, with pre-trial motions starting in April before the formal trial in early June.

D’Auteuil’s appointment stands in contrast to the decision by the military’s top prosecutor to appoint a special prosecutor last year to review the military-police investigation against Dutil and decide whether to recommend charges.

In a statement, director of military prosecutions Col. Bruce MacGregor noted his decision to appoint a special prosecutor but added he was “confident that the case will continue to move forward openly and fairly as the process unfolds.”

Military police first started investigating Dutil in November 2015 after receiving a complaint that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

The alleged relationship is believed to have lasted from November 2014 to October 2015 and was not permitted under military regulations.

It was during the course of their investigation into that relationship that military police uncovered evidence to suggest Dutil knowingly signed a travel claim containing false information in September 2015.

Only the federal cabinet can appoint or remove a chief military judge, and a military official confirmed that Dutil remains in his position but has not been hearing cases since he was charged last January.

This isn’t the first time that Dutil, who took on his current role in 2006, has been accused of violating the military’s rules on personal relationships.

But a special committee of three judges dismissed a complaint in April 2016 on the basis that the conduct it described did not have any impact on Dutil’s work as a judge. Military police did not lay any charges.

Officials have not said whether the complaints relate to the same alleged relationship.

A conviction for committing an act of a fraudulent nature carries a maximum penalty of two years less a day in prison while wilfully making a false entry or statement in an official document carries a penalty of three years less a day.

The maximum penalty for prejudicing good order and discipline is dismissal from the military with disgrace.

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