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The Globe and Mail

Reservist failed duty to keep troops safe, court-martial told

Calgary reservist Maj. Darryl Watts, facing a court martial after a fatal firing range accident in Afghanistan, has pleaded not guilty. Lawyer Balfour Der says Watts did nothing wrong and shouldn't be facing charges at all.

The Canadian Press

A military prosecutor says a Calgary reservist turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader during a training exercise in Afghanistan that saw one soldier killed and four others wounded.

"Command has to mean something," argued military prosecutor Major Tony Tamburro during final arguments at the court-martial of Major Darryl Watts. "It's not about wearing stripes or going to the officers club. It means being responsible to those under your command.

"It was his duty to stop the range. He followed his troops to an area of danger. He should have led his troops to an area of safety."

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Major Watts, 44, faces six charges, including manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty in the Feb. 12, 2010, accident on a training range four kilometres north of Kandahar city.

Corporal Josh Baker, 24, died when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered a platoon of Canadian troops working on the range. Four other soldiers were seriously injured.

While the prosecution argued that Major Watts was the leader that day and could have prevented the accident, the defence argued that punishing Major Watts criminally would be wrong.

"This court-martial is not an opportunity to right past wrongs. Nothing will account for the tragic loss of Cpl. Baker. This court-martial is a court of law," said lawyer Balfour Der. "Darryl Watts is a man of character. He's the type of man who should be leading troops. This accident has already cost us one good soldier. Don't make it two."

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