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New Democrats call on director of public prosecutions to review Duffy case

Sen. Mike Duffy arrives to the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, October 28, 2013. The NDP is asking Canada's director of public prosecutions to look at the evidence collected by the RCMP in the Duffy case to determine if charges should be laid against other people as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

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Sen. Mike Duffy arrives to the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Monday, October 28, 2013. The NDP is asking Canada's director of public prosecutions to look at the evidence collected by the RCMP in the Duffy case to determine if charges should be laid against other people as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - The NDP has asked Canada's director of public prosecutions to look at the evidence collected by the RCMP in the Mike Duffy case to determine if charges should be laid against other people as well.

The Mounties have filed 31 charges against Duffy related to his housing and travel expense claims, accusing him of misspending more than $200,000.

But MP Charlie Angus, the NDP ethics critic, wonders why others haven't been charged.

Angus said he and other NDP MPs got an earful over the summer parliamentary recess from constituents angry about the matter.

"In our ridings, we've heard many, many questions about the decision to charge Mike Duffy and the decision not to charge anyone in the Prime Minister's Office," he told a news conference Tuesday.

Nigel Wright, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, gave Duffy $90,000 to repay his questioned expense claims. Police have already said Wright won't face charges.

"I have written to the director of public prosecutions requesting that he review the evidence collected by the RCMP and make his own determination as to whether Nigel Wright and/or any of the prime minister's staff involved in the Wright-Duffy scandal should be charged under the Parliament of Canada Act," Angus said.

"Such a case, given its political sensitivities, is precisely the reason the director of public prosecutions was established."

Angus said he doesn't question the RCMP investigation, but insisted the independent director of prosecutions should have been involved. A review of the evidence might settle some questions that have swirled around the Duffy scandal, he added.

However, Dan Brien, a spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, said Tuesday that Angus's request for a review of the evidence is misplaced.

"We're not an investigative agency," Brien said. "The responsibility for laying charges lies with the police or law enforcement."

Some parliamentary law experts, such as former House of Commons law clerk Rob Walsh, speculated that the RCMP may have been reluctant to pursue charges under the Parliament of Canada Act because there is no record of anyone ever before being prosecuted under sect. 16.

That section stipulates that it’s an indictable offence — punishable by a year imprisonment and a fine of $500 to $2,000 — to offer compensation to a sitting senator in regard to "any claim, controversy, arrest or other matter before the Senate."

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada would have been responsible for prosecuting any charges laid under the Parliament of Canada Act. Yet the RCMP never consulted the service before declaring in April that the evidence did not support laying charges against Wright.

Walsh and other parliamentary law experts have argued the Parliament of Canada Act would have been an easier route to secure a conviction against Wright because, unlike Criminal Code offences, no proof of intent to act corruptly is required.

Wright has long insisted that he did nothing wrong and that his only motivation was to ensure taxpayers were not left on the hook for Duffy’s disputed expense claims.

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