Court martial begins today for Calgary major charged in Afghanistan accident

The Canadian Press

CALGARY - A Canadian soldier who was charged after a mine explosion killed a colleague on a training range in Afghanistan will appear before a military court today as his court martial begins.

Calgary reservist Major Darryl Watts faces six charges in the friendly-fire death of Corporal Joshua Baker.

Baker was 24 when he died at a range four kilometres northeast of Kandahar city when an explosive packed with 700 steel balls hit a Canadian Forces platoon.

Four other soldiers were wounded in the February 2010 incident.

Watts, who was a captain at the time, was the officer in charge on the day of the accident.

He is charged with manslaughter, two counts of negligent performance of a military duty, one count of unlawfully causing bodily harm and two counts of breach of duty.

The explosive which killed Baker was a Claymore mine — a command-detonated anti-personnel weapon which is set up above the ground with the explosive side facing in the direction of the enemy.

Watts' court martial will be similar to regular court proceedings except that the judge is a senior military officer and the jury is made up of five other officers who will determine his guilt or innocence.

If convicted, Watts could be sentenced to prison time in the Canadian Force's detention barracks in Edmonton or in a regular correctional facility.

Lesser punishments can include dismissal from the military, a reduction in rank or a fine.

Two other Canadian Forces personnel were charged following the accident.

Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale, who was the safety officer at the firing range, faces identical charges to Watts.

Last September, Maj. Christopher Lunney pleaded guilty to negligent performance of duty while four other charges were dropped. He was demoted to captain and received a severe reprimand.