Skip to main content

In this artist’s sketch, Mike Duffy, a former member of the Conservative caucus, testifies at his trial in Ottawa on Dec. 8.

In April, 2016, a judge dismissed all 31 charges against senator Mike Duffy after a politically charged trial on fraud and bribery allegations. In August, 2017, Duffy announced that he is suing the Senate and government for nearly $8-million. Here's a look back at the court case


Ontario Court Justice Charles Vaillancourt delivered his verdict in Mike Duffy's case in an Ottawa courtroom in April, 2016.

Here's a list of the 31 charges.

The full ruling from Justice Vaillancourt dismissing all charges can be read here. You can also learn more about Justice Vaillancourt's legal career here.


Mr. Duffy, appointed as a Conservative senator in 2008 by prime minister Stephen Harper, was one of several people in the Red Chamber to come under investigation three years ago after auditors found inconsistencies in their expense claims. He was booted from the Conservative caucus and suspended from the Senate. The Mounties opened a criminal probe in his case in June, 2013.


In 2014, the RCMP laid 31 criminal charges against Mr. Duffy. The charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to his housing and travel expenses from 2009 to 2012. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.


The $90,000 question

Nigel Wright, the trial's star witness, had been Mr. Harper's former chief of staff until it was revealed in 2013 that he gave Mr. Duffy a $90,000 cheque to repay questionable expense claims. The RCMP investigated Mr. Wright for this, but did not charge him.

Nigel Wright testifies on Aug. 12, 2015.

In August, 2015, his six days of testimony – backed up by volumes of e-mail correspondence between him and senior party officials – offered rare insight into how the Conservatives handled the expenses scandal behind the scenes. (Here, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reconstructs the alleged chronology of events in the frantic 24 hours leading up to Feb. 22, 2013, when Mr. Duffy publicly announced that he would repay his expenses.)

Key points from Nigel Wright’s e-mails


The political theatre

The 10 days of testimony in August, 2015, dogged the Conservatives on the campaign trail, with Mr. Harper dodging questions about how his versions of events differed from Mr. Duffy's and some polls indicating that support for the Tories deteriorated because of what voters were hearing from the courtroom. In October, 2015, the Conservatives lost the election to Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

Tory supporters grow angry as Harper asked about Duffy trial


'I was all alone …'

After the election, the trial resumed with testimony from Mr. Duffy's friend Gerald Donohue and others before, in December, 2015, Mr. Duffy testified himself. In his version of events, the Conservative establishment betrayed him to avoid a political scandal and bullied him into the scheme to repay his expenses when, he insisted, he had done nothing wrong. "I knew they were building a scaffold and everywhere I looked I saw people who were betraying me, leaking stuff to the media that wasn't true," he told the court. "I was all alone …" The trial ended on Dec. 17, its 60th day, without the prosecution having asked him about the $90,000 cheque.

Mike Duffy responds to defence lawyer Donald Bayne on Dec. 14, 2015.

The last words

In February, 2016, closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Mark Holmes accused Mr. Duffy of exaggerating and fabricating details to make himself look better, while defence counsel Donald Bayne called Mr. Wright a "Scripture-shouting, self-righteous" man whose testimony was not reliable.

  • Mr. Holmes: “[Mr. Duffy is] not reliable and he’s not at all concerned, it would seem, about just conjuring up facts. It may work in broadcasting, but it is outrageous for a witness to do that at a criminal trial.”
  • Mr. Bayne: “[Mr. Duffy] has been through a tremendous ordeal. He’s been humiliated and ridiculed, and that will continue to go on. Few have ever been in his position.”

With reports from Steven Chase, Daniel Leblanc, Laura Stone and The Canadian Press


Mike Duffy sues Senate, government for almost $8-million Duffy is arguing that the Senate and unnamed senators 'acted unconstitutionally' as it suspended him without pay, and that the RCMP mishandled its investigation into his expenses. (For subscribers)