Manslaughter case against Canadian soldier soon to be in hands of panel

Associated Press

CALGARY - The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident in Afghanistan will soon be in the hands of a military jury.

Maj. Darryl Watts faces charges that include manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.

Cmdr. Peter Lamont, the military judge overseeing the court martial in Calgary, is to charge the five-member panel today.

Cpl. Josh Baker died and four other soldiers were injured when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered their platoon on a training range near Kandahar city in February 2010.

The Crown argues that Watts, who was the platoon commander, turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader during the exercise.

The defence counters that Watts had no training on the Claymore, so he handed over responsibility for safety to his second-in-command, who was an expert on the weapon.

The platoon, which was stationed at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar city, usually visited the Kan Kala firing range about once a month.

The day of the accident the range was divided into four training sections.

The first two tests of the anti-personnel mine went off without a hitch. But when the second firing occurred, the ball bearings fired backwards, hitting Baker and four others.

Videos of the accident show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the tests. They were not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover, as set out in Canadian Forces safety guidelines.

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