Information from former Conservative cabinet ministers helped put an end to Norman case
'It's a complex legal charge ... We didn’t have the entire information,' Crown says
The Crown's case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman unexpectedly began to collapse in March partly under the weight of information from several former Conservative cabinet ministers and staffers, CBC News has learned.
They were key players in the previous government's $668 million deal to have the Davie Shipyard, in Levis, Que., convert and lease a supply ship to the navy, say multiple sources, some of whom were interviewed by a lawyer representing the former vice-chief of the defence staff.
These individuals were never questioned by the RCMP or the Crown in the run-up to a breach of trust charge being laid against Norman a year ago.
The former commander of the navy was accused of leaking cabinet secrets on 12 separate occasions, almost all of them involving the period of time prior to the last election.
What became clear — throughout the process — was that Norman was working in close cooperation with staff in former prime minister Stephen Harper's office in order to make the deal happen.
"There was a political will to get this done," said one former Conservative staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, who was intimately familiar with the project at the outset.
As the case against Norman developed, many members of the former government expected the Mounties to come knocking. But they never did, said the staffer.
Allusions to the involvement of Harper's office were sprinkled through court records in interviews with federal bureaucrats conducted by the RCMP, but the extent to which the former commander of the navy worked with them was not made clear.
The Crown acknowledged Wednesday that it did not have the full picture when it decided to charge the 38-year military veteran.
"It's a complex legal charge," said lead Crown attorney Barbara Mercier. "We didn't have the entire information."
'It should have been handed over'
The new evidence, gathered by Norman's lawyers and presented to the Crown on March 28, included some documents which were not uncovered during the investigation, something Norman's lead defence lawyer blamed on government obstruction.
"It should have been handed over," Marie Henein told reporters. "It should have been handed over to the prosecution. It was not. As to the why, I don't know. I leave you to answer that."
The Crown announced earlier today that it had stayed the charge against Norman, saying new information had come to light through Norman's defence team that convinced the prosecution there was no longer a reasonable chance of conviction.
Norman was accused of leaking to both an executive at the Davie Shipyard and to a CBC journalist.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also announced Wednesday the federal government would be paying Norman's legal fees. A private crowdsourcing initiative already has raised more than $400,000 for Norman's defence.
The prosecution said Norman's actions were inappropriate and secretive, but that doesn't mean a crime was committed.
"Inappropriate does not mean criminal," said Mercier.
A breach-of-trust charge can be laid against an appointed or elected official discharging a public duty.
To convict, the Crown must prove the accused person's conduct represented a "serious and marked" departure from the standards expected in that position, and that the accused acted outside the public interest towards a dishonest, partial, corrupt or oppressive purpose.