‘Ottawa’ Petawawa Special Forces Soldier Found not Guilty of Sexual Assault and Drunkenness
GARRISON PETAWAWA — A military judge on Friday acquitted a Petawawa special operations soldier of sexual assault and drunkenness.
Delivering his findings of a court martial convened since April at the garrison, Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil concluded that the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Cpl. Simon Cadieux was guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of drunkenness in connection with an alleged incident in Jamaica nearly two years ago.
The six-day trial, which began April 18, heard testimony from three witnesses, including the accused and the complainant, whose identity was not disclosed due to a court-imposed publication ban. After the judge rendered the verdict, Cadieux, a special forces operator with the Petawawa-based Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR), stood up and thanked his lawyer, defence counsel David Hodson, who told Postmedia that he felt justice had been served in this case.
“The prosecution did an excellent job given the facts but the truth came out at trial without a doubt,” said Hodson.
CSOR was deployed to Jamaica as part of Exercise Tropical Dagger, an annual deployment in which special operators mentor members of Jamaica Defence Force in counter-terrorism techniques and drug interdiction, when the alleged offences took place. Presenting the facts that were brought up at trial, d’Auteuil recounted that on the evening/early morning of Nov. 27-28, 2015, the unit held a barbecue to mark the end of the exercise. To that point, it had been a dry deployment, however, consumption of alcohol was permitted for this occasion. D’Auteuil remarked that there was no limit on the amount of alcohol personnel could drink as the chain of command was relying on personnel to use their common sense.
Many of the personnel began returning to tents at around 1:30 a.m. Cadieux, who had consumed a significant amount of alcohol, went over to a females-only tent and spoke with a master corporal who met him at the door and gave evidence as a witness at this trial. The witness had told the trial that Cadieux was seeking the complainant, who had also been drinking but had since gone to bed, hoping she would return to the party.
According to testimony, Cadieux then approached the complainant’s bunk and knelt down beside her. A kiss between the two was briefly exchanged before she asked him to stop, which he did. Cadieux then left the tent, according to the witness, who had also instructed him to leave the premises. The complainant related later that she only knew the accused was there when she woke up after feeling someone touching her pelvic area.
The next morning, Cadieux apologized to the complainant for his behaviour. The soldier was scheduled to get on a bus for a unit-conducted trip to a nearby resort. However, his superiors felt he was intoxicated or too hung over for the trip. The soldier was ordered to go back to bed to “sleep it off.”
Laying out the basis for a guilty conviction in terms of the sexual assault, D’Auteuil said the court had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused had applied force in his behaviour toward the complainant and that the nature of the sexual activity was non-consensual. He found that the testimony of all witnesses was reliable and clear, but that there was sufficient evidence that alcohol had an impact in the case. The court heard that the complainant had initially mistaken the identity of the accused when they began kissing but stopped when she realized who he was.
“He (the accused) stopped, stood up and left,” said the judge. “Once told to stop, he put it to her that he had made a mistake and he left.”
As for feeling the accused’s hand on her pelvis, the judge agreed with the defence assertion that the accused may have been trying to maintain his balance as he knelt down beside the cot. Turning to the drunkenness charge, D’Auteuil said he was not satisfied that the prosecution had showed that Cadieux’s conduct was disorderly, that it brought discredit to the Canadian Forces or that he was unfit for duty. The judge concluded that on that particular morning the accused was suffering a hangover from the previous evening’s party as had many who attended the festivities.
“(His supervisor) sent him to his tent and ordered him to rest,” said D’Auteuil. “There was no evidence that there was a breakdown in peaceful behaviour.”
Prosecutor Maj. Chavi Walsh said he will study the judge’s decision and will review the matter before determining if any appeal will be launched.
“The judge did believe the version of the complainant in such that she did not consent to the sexual touching, but the issue with sexual assault is there is always the mental element, the view of the accused, and that’s where (the judge) had reasonable doubt,” Walsh said.
The unit was provided with an Operation Honour brief prior to the deployment. Operation Honour remains the military’s cornerstone policy to addressing harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within its ranks. CSOR public affairs officer Capt. Sally-Ann Cyr said the Canadian Armed Forces takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and is committed to dealing with them as quickly and as appropriately as possible.
“As in all matters of military justice, the accused remains innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” she added. “Despite the outcome of a trial, however, Canadian Armed Forces members can be subject to administrative review which can result in actions that range from remedial measures to release from the military if deemed appropriate by the chain of command.”