CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A military court judge has found army reserve captain Todd Bannister not guilty on charges stemming from incidents where he allegedly asked a female cadet for sex.
During a court martial in Charlottetown Tuesday, Bannister was found not guilty on two counts of behaving in a disgraceful manner and not guilty on two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
Bannister’s lawyer, Maj. J.L.P.L. Boutin, said the prosecution fell significantly short of proving the offences beyond a reasonable doubt.
“It is quite appalling, I would suggest, that this matter even made it to the court,” said Boutin. “It was clear from the get-go that there (was) no sufficient legal basis and factual basis.”
The charges stemmed from two incidents involving former female cadet Breanna MacKinnon while Bannister was commanding officer of the 148 Charlottetown Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps.
In one incident, Bannister was alleged to have propositioned the former cadet to engage in sexual intercourse. He was also accused of making the same request to her on a separate occasion.
For the two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, Judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil found the prosecution had failed to prove that Bannister received proper notification of the cadets’ harassment and abuse prevention policy.
While that policy was available digitally, it was not considered an official order.
During an interview following the verdict, Boutin opposed the idea that Bannister was found not guilty on a technicality.
“It is not a technicality, this is a basic legal requirement. Someone can not be found guilty of an offence, an offence that calls for serious consequences, in this instance up to imprisonment, without… applying some basic legal standard,” he said. “Everybody has their own perception as to what is acceptable and what is not… you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the standard exists, that is was well-defined and it was known. And (the prosecution) fell short of doing that.”
While the judge said the alleged behaviour was not condoned, he ruled the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence from a criminal standard that Bannister had behaved in a disgraceful manner.
After a preliminary review of the allegations, Bannister was placed on suspension, relieved of his duties as commanding officer and ordered not to attend cadet activities.
Boutin said he was not sure what was the next step for Bannister, although he wished his client the “best of luck”.
“Hopefully, he will overcome and take this as a positive experience, although it obviously has had a significant impact on him both personally and family-wise,” he said.
Col. Bruce MacGregor, director of military prosecutions, said in a statement the decision will be reviewed and prosecutors will decide within 30 days whether to make an appeal.
"As the director of military prosecutions, I will not comment on the military judge's decision at this point. However, we will review in detail the judge's reasoning and within 30 days make a determination whether or not this matter will be appealed to the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada"
The Canadian Armed Forces also issued a statement regarding its position on inappropriate behaviour following the ruling.
“Inappropriate behaviour of any kind is not tolerated in the Canadian Armed Forces. We will continue to deal with allegations of such behaviour fairly and in accordance with the law,” said spokesperson Capt. Liam Mather.