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Appeal date set for Calgary reservist convicted in fatal training accident

Capt. Darryl Watts speaks during an interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary on Dec 8, 2010. An appeal date has been set in April for Watts, a veteran Canadian Forces reservist convicted for his role in a deadly Afghanistan training accident.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

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Capt. Darryl Watts speaks during an interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary on Dec 8, 2010. An appeal date has been set in April for Watts, a veteran Canadian Forces reservist convicted for his role in a deadly Afghanistan training accident.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

CALGARY - An appeal date has been set in April for a veteran Canadian Forces reservist convicted for his role in a deadly Afghanistan training accident.

Darryl Watts was found guilty in December 2012 of unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty, but not guilty of manslaughter.

He was demoted two ranks to lieutenant from major and given a severe reprimand.

Watts filed an appeal of both his sentence and conviction last year.

The Court Martial Appeal Court has scheduled a one-day hearing for April 4 in Calgary.

Cpl. Josh Baker, 24, died when a C-19 Claymore anti-personnel mine loaded with 700 steel balls peppered a platoon on a practice range in February 2010. Four other soldiers hit by the blast were seriously injured.

The prosecution argued during the trial that Watts, who was the platoon commander, didn't enforce safety standards and abdicated his duty as leader when he handed over responsibility for safety on the range to Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale.

Watts argued that he had never been trained on the C-19 and as a result was not qualified to be in charge.

The director of military prosecutions has filed a cross-appeal. The prosecution had argued for jail time for Watts in addition to his dismissal with disgrace from the Canadian Forces.

Maj. Tony Tamburro confirmed last year that the Crown would seek a greater punishment than the sentence imposed by the court martial.

Defence lawyer, Balfour Der, has indicated the judge should have allowed the jury to consider Watts's lack of experience in the use of the C-19 in determining whether he was negligent.

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 on the next one, the ball bearings fired backwards, hitting Baker and the others.

Videos show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the test. They are not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover, as set out in military safety regulations.

Two other soldiers have also been convicted for their roles that day.

Christopher Lunney pleaded guilty Sept. 13, 2012, to negligent performance of duty for failing to ensure Watts was properly qualified on the C-19. He said he had assumed that to be the case, because of Watts's rank. Lunney was demoted one rank to captain from major and received a severe reprimand.

Ravensdale, who was running the exercise that day, was found guilty last year of breach of duty causing death, breach of duty causing bodily harm, unlawfully causing bodily harm and negligent performance of military duty. He, too, was acquitted of manslaughter.

The now-retired soldier was given a six-month suspended sentence. He also received a fine and demoted one rank to sergeant.

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