Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Explanation of sentence in Canadian unauthorized decorations case

Col. Michael R. Gibson, CF
Military Judge
The website of the Chief Military Judge of the Canadian Forces is most excellent, particularly because it provides access to the Reasons for Sentence given by military judges in specific courts-martial. A recent case, noted here, concerned a Lieutenant Colonel who was prosecuted for wearing decorations she had not been awarded and, as the parties had jointly urged, sentenced to a severe reprimand and a $5,000 fine. It turns out that she had previously been convicted of three other offenses involving dishonesty. Excerpts from Judge Michael R. Gibson's Reasons for Sentence follow:
[7] The court must impose a sentence that is of the minimum severity necessary to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale. Discipline is that quality that every Canadian Forces member must have that allows him or her to put the interests of Canada and of the Canadian Forces before personal interests. This is necessary because members of the Canadian Forces must promptly and willingly obey lawful orders that may potentially have very significant personal consequences, up to injury or even death. Discipline is described as a quality because ultimately, although it is something which is developed and encouraged by the Canadian Forces through instruction, training and practice, it is something that must be internalized, as it is one of the fundamental prerequisites to operational effectiveness in any armed force. One of the most important components of discipline in the military context is self-discipline. This includes, in large measure, the strength of character to resist engaging in conduct which is wrong or unethical. The actions of Lieutenant-Colonel [Deborah L.] Miller demonstrate that this is an area in which she has been deficient.
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[16] I was not provided with any cases similar on their facts to the present case as sentencing precedents by either the prosecution or defence. If this were a first offence I would have no difficulty accepting the sentence jointly recommended by the prosecution and defence as appropriate. What creates some difficulty in the present case, however, is that it is not a first offence. The offender, Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, was convicted at court martial of offences of dishonesty shortly before the date of 20 December 2012 to which the charges currently before the court relate. This conviction must have been fresh in her mind on that date. Yet she chose to continue to wear medals and commendation insignia to which she was not entitled.
[17] To some outside the military community this may seem a matter of minor import. It is not. The court notes that "improperly wearing a uniform, rank badges, ribbons or medals to which the accused person was not entitled" is actually cited in Note G to QR&O article 103.60 as a paradigm example of an action prejudicial to good order and discipline. But what is truly significant about Lieutenant-Colonel Miller's conduct in this matter, however, is what it says about her integrity as a senior officer. Coming so closely on the heels of her previous convictions for offences of dishonesty, it must raise significant questions about her integrity and judgment.
How would such an offense have been handled in your country? In the United States, it would likely have resulted in nonjudicial punishment (a reprimand and forfeiture) followed by retirement in the next lower pay grade.

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