The military prosecutor in the case of a sailor who admits to desertion says Lt. Derek de Jong should be demoted for his action, but the sailor's defence lawyer suggests a judge should impose a fine.  

Both lawyers presented their closing arguments Tuesday at the Halifax court martial of de Jong.

On Monday, de Jong testified he left his post aboard HMCS Preserver in September 2012.

He says he did so after he was subjected to deplorable behaviour that included a colleague urinating on his cabin floor.

After going AWOL from HMCS Preserver, de Jong returned to Halifax and has been working at CFB Halifax.

During cross examination Tuesday, military prosecutor Lt. Cmdr. Darin Reeves questioned de Jong about his performance evaluations since he left HMCS Preserver, which have been very positive.

Reeves pointed out there seemed to be a disconnect between de Jong's desertion and his strong and very positive performance evaluations in the months after the incident aboard HMCS Preserver. 

Both the defence and prosecution completed their closing arguments Tuesday. De Jong's sentencing is expected Wednesday morning. 

In terms of additional sentencing, the prosecution is recommending that de Jong also receive a "severe reprimand." The defence agrees with imposing a reprimand — a fine of between $1,000 and $3,000.

Mitigating factors the defence wants the judge to consider are the fact that de Jong was only AWOL for 30 hours, that his chain of command was informed throughout that time and there were no adverse effects on operations as a result of his desertion.   

Letter talks about 'toxic working relationship'

The agreed statement of facts in the case refers back to a letter de Jong wrote aboard the ship while it was docked in Key West, Fla.

In a letter to his commanding officer on Sept. 17, 2012, de Jong stated he had a “toxic working relationship” with the ship’s supply officer.

He said he was being harassment and during a meeting that morning, he advised the supply officer that “he was harassing me and that I was writing my release.”

De Jong ended the letter by saying: “Following my filing of this memo I would like to be immediately repatriated and discontinue my service to the [Canadian Forces] as I cannot tolerate this working environment.”

According to the agreed statement of facts, de Jong went to the ship's sick bay in an attempt to get a medical repatriation. However, the ship's physician's assistant could not find HMCS Preserver's executive officer to approve the repatriation. 

The assistant then informed de Jong it might take about an hour to complete the repatriation, at which point de Jong "stormed out of sick bay stating 'I will do it myself.'"

The physician's assistant followed de Jong to his cabin, where he emerged in civilian clothing and left the ship.

A few people aboard tried to stop de Jong but he ordered them back to the ship, according to the agreed statement of facts. 

Just before walking down the gangway to leave, de Jong loudly announced "Officer of the day, I am AWOL." De Jong did not have permission from his commanding officer to leave the ship and return to Halifax, the court heard. 

After a number of flight connections, de Jong arrived back in Halifax at 3:59 p.m. AT the day after he left the ship. A short time later, he went to the Military Police Unit in Halifax to announce his arrival. 

The maximum sentence for desertion under the National Defence Act is life in prison.

With files from The Canadian Press