Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed as a senator and later repaid with money from the prime minister's then chief of staff Nigel Wright. The suspended senator's trial, which began April 7 in the Ontario court of justice in Ottawa, is in its 32nd day.
Lawyers at the trial were arguing Thursday over whether details of the audit on the residency status of senators are admissible. The issue is whether the Senate has the right to assert parliamentary privilege over this report, meaning its details would be kept secret from the public.
Duffy's main defence lawyer, Donald Bayne, wants the report entered as evidence, believing it will support his argument that the rules of the Senate are vague and ambiguous. The audit was conducted by Jill Anne Joseph, then director of internal audit at Senate administration, who found there was a lack of clear criteria surrounding the issue of residency.
Residency is one of the central issues in the case against Duffy. He designated his home in P.E.I. as his primary home, making him eligible to claim meals and living expenses for his time in Ottawa, even though he has lived and worked in Canada's capital since the 1970s.
Lawyer Peter Doody, representing the defence, aruged that the report should be made admissible, saying there is no prior case law or recognized privilege of the Senate or Parliament that would allow a report of that kind to be kept secret.
Doody said that a series of Senate reports relating to Senate expenses have already been entered into evidence in the trial, meaning that either no privilege was asserted in those cases or that the Senate waived that privilege. He said the 2013 internal audit report should be treated the same way.
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