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Navy officer charged with espionage did not jeopardize troop safety, lawyer says

Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle arrives at Provincial Court in Halifax on Feb. 28, 2011.

Andrew Vaughan/Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Jeffrey Paul Delisle, the naval intelligence officer at the centre of a spy scandal, has been charged with espionage but the federal government is not alleging that he put troops at risk, his lawyer says.

"That's not the allegation. This is nothing to do with the safety of troops," Mike Taylor said Tuesday. "It's not even close to that."

Mr. Taylor, who was hired late last week to represent the officer after receiving a call from one of Mr. Delisle's family members – he would not reveal who called – said he met with his new client for three hours Monday.

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On Tuesday, the lawyer appeared in court briefly to set a date for Sub-Lieutenant Delisle's bail hearing. It will take place April 13.

SLt. Delisle was not in the courtroom although he had been brought into the courthouse and was photographed wearing a red hoodie, his face hidden and his hands cuffed.

He was charged earlier this year with passing secrets to a "foreign entity" under Canada's Information Security Act. He worked at HMCS Trinity, a highly secure naval communications and intelligence centre at CFB Halifax, which was privy to intelligence from Canada's allies, including the Americans, British and Australians.

This is the first time such a charge has ever been laid. It carries a maximum life sentence.

Acknowledging the charges are very serious, Mr. Taylor said SLt. Delisle is being held in a more secure area of the provincial jail because of concerns about his well-being.

"People think that perhaps our troops have been put at risk, information about their movements and whereabouts and procedures on the field have been passed on," Mr. Taylor said. "As you can imagine there are people out there who aren't too happy about these types of charges."

But Mr. Taylor refused to say to whom the Crown is alleging SLt. Delisle passed secrets.

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The Globe and Mail has reported that Canada asked more than one Russian diplomat to leave in connection with the Delisle case. Moscow denies this, saying several envoys who left recently did so well before the naval intelligence officer was arrested.

Mr. Taylor said more information may come out in the bail hearing, adding that the Crown is opposing bail for SLt. Delisle. "They just perhaps don't want to be seen as agreeing to release someone who has been charged with such a serious offence," he said.

Mr. Taylor, 52, is a long-time criminal lawyer who practises in and grew up in the same area of Halifax as Mr. Delisle. Called to the bar in 1991, he practised with Nova Scotia Legal Aid. Before going into law, he was a police officer in Calgary.

He did not know Mr. Delisle growing up and was somewhat surprised when he received the call to represent Mr. Delisle but noted there is a "small pool" of criminal lawyers in Halifax, so it is not unusual that his name would pop up

And, he said, it's a good case to take on because of its complexity. This is new territory for lawyers as it's such an unusual charge.

As for his client, Mr. Taylor said this is a "very difficult time emotionally" and that he is concerned about his children.

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Mr. Delisle's previous lawyer, Cameron MacKeen, withdrew from the case in late January.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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