Sailors accused of sabotage could face 10 years in jail, dismissal
The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, August 14, 2008
By David Pugliese
Two sailors could face up to 10 years in jail and dismissal from the Canadian Forces if they are found guilty of sabotage in a case involving a classified computer database at Ottawa’s National Defence headquarters.
The rare charges were laid Tuesday by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service in relation to what Defence Department officials allege is the corruption of the database.
If the charges do proceed to a court martial, it is likely that such a hearing won’t start until early in the new year.
A court martial is usually held at the location where the alleged incident took place, in this case Ottawa.
Petty Officer Second Class Sylvia Reid, now based in Victoria, B.C., and Petty Officer Second Class Janet Sinclair, a member of the Maritime Forces Pacific headquarters in Victoria, were each charged with one count of sabotage, one count of conspiracy, one count of mischief in relation to data and one count of willful property damage.
The two, who recently arrived in Victoria, are still on duty, but will be moved to less sensitive jobs in the Canadian Forces, according to military officials.
But the decision to allow the women to continue working has some questioning the severity of the incident.
“That raises the question about how serious can this be if you leave them still working,” said NDP defence critic Dawn Black. “Sabotage is a very serious charge, but it doesn’t appear to fit with the fact they haven’t been suspended, even suspended with pay.”
The alleged incident took place in July 2007, according to National Investigation Service spokeswoman Capt. Paule Poulin.
The military is declining to release any more details about the circumstances of the case or the motives surrounding the alleged incident.
Petty Officer Second Class Sinclair is a sonar operator, while Petty Officer Second Class Reid is a naval combat information systems operator.
The charges against the sailors have set into motion a series of legal procedures. It will now be up to the commanding officers of each sailor to decide whether to refer the case to the director of military prosecutions, an organization similar to a civilian Crown Attorney’s office.
“A commanding officer could review the file and decide the charge should not be proceeded with,” explained Maj. Marylene Trudel, who works for the director of military prosecutions.
However, if the National Investigation Service does not agree with a commanding officer’s findings, its investigators can still refer the charges further up the chain of command and ask that they be sent to military prosecutors.
Maj. Trudel, who emphasized she was not discussing any specific incident, noted that when a case is received by military prosecutors it is reviewed using the criteria of whether there is a reasonable chance of conviction and whether it is in the public interest to proceed with charges.
“Once we go through that criteria and we decide to lay charges, then we select the charges,” she said. “It could be the same charges that were laid initially. It can be some of the charges. It can be new charges or we can decide not to lay any charges.”
Ms. Black said the information released by the military is incomplete and could lead some people to believe there are serious security concerns when maybe that is not the case.
“I think the Department of National Defence and the minister should give Canadians some assurances about this case,” she said. “Two Canadian Forces members charged with sabotage; that raises many questions and yet neither the government nor the department have given us any understanding of what this means.”
An official with Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s office said the minister has no comment on the case.
Military officials declined to discuss what effect, if any, the alleged corruption of the database had on government operations. They would also not provide details on what computer system was involved, other than to say it was a government network.
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