ALBERTA

Paul Ravensdale, Convicted Manitoba Soldier, Avoids Jail In Fatal Afghanistan Training Accident

03/19/2013 02:14 EDT | Updated 05/19/2013 05:12 EDT
THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
SHILO, Man. - Three years after leading a deadly weapons exercise that killed a fellow soldier and injured four others, Paul Ravensdale learned Tuesday he will not have to go to jail.

The former warrant officer was given a six-month suspended sentence, fined $2,000 and demoted one rank to sergeant — the last a largely symbolic consequence as Ravensdale is now retired.

Ravensdale, 43, stared straight ahead as the sentence was delivered and showed little emotion.

The prosecution had asked for four years in prison, but military judge Col. Mario Dutil said Ravensdale was failed by his superiors when he was put in charge of both leading the exercise and making sure everyone was safe.

"Warrant Officer Ravensdale should not have been put in this situation," said Dutil.

"He was left alone by his chain of command and put in a terrible situation."

The judge also pointed out that Ravensdale was a highly decorated soldier and had had a "stellar" military career with no disciplinary problems.

Ravensdale was leading a test of C-19 anti-personnel mines near Kandahar city three years ago when one went off incorrectly — it's never been clear why — and shot hundreds of steel ball bearings backward instead of forward.

Cpl. Josh Baker, 24, was killed.

Ravensdale was convicted on four charges, including breach of duty causing death.

Military prosecutor Maj. Tony Tamburro had argued in his closing submissions that Ravensdale ignored safety rules.

Those rules require soldiers to be at least 100 metres behind a C-19 mine unless they are shielded by a dugout, a vehicle or some other barrier. Video played at the court martial showed some soldiers standing much closer than 100 metres and with no protection.

Dutil said Ravensdale clearly violated the rules, but was given too many tasks by his superiors. Training rules require weapons testing and safety monitoring be given to two separate people.

The judge also spared Ravensdale from incarceration because the retired soldier suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is undergoing long-term treatment with a psychologist, who is helping him overcome anxiety in public places.

"His condition requires a specialized treatment," Dutil said.

"The substitution of his therapist may be counter-productive."

Two of Ravensdale's superiors also were convicted for their roles in the accident.

Maj. Darryl Watts was demoted two ranks to lieutenant and given a severe reprimand on charges of negligence and unlawfully causing bodily harm. He is appealing both the conviction and the sentence.

Maj. Christopher Lunney was demoted one rank to captain and given a severe reprimand after pleading guilty to negligent performance of duty.

Tamburro said any decision on a possible appeal in Ravensdale's case rests with the director of military prosecutions. He said the three convictions should send a message to other soldiers.

"I hope that will reinforce, to members of the Canadian Forces, the requirement that they conduct themselves in accordance with safety regulations."

Maj. Philippe-Luc Boutin, who acted as one of Ravensdale's defence lawyers, said the sentence will let his client continue his recovery.

"Hopefully he's going to continue his treatment and continue to be a (hockey) coach for his kids and other kids in the community. And hopefully, down the road, he will be able to fully reintegrate in his community as a full member."

Also on HuffPost

Albertans Killed In Afghanistan