Criminal Law

Duffy verdict may impact cases against other senators

A judge’s finding of not guilty for Sen. Mike Duffy on 31 criminal charges will likely have a large effect on cases against other senators who are being investigated for expense-related issues, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells CBC’s The National.

He says the investigators and the prosecutors "will now have to carefully scrutinize the facts they are building their case on because they know there is a judicial standard, a statement now made, that the rules and policies in place are non-specific and do not give good guidance.

"And so, if they want to launch ahead with another investigation, they could be in deep trouble,” he tells the public broadcaster’s flagship evening news program.

Suspended senator Patrick Brazeau and retired senator Mac Harb also face trials related to alleged inappropriate housing and living expenses. Each are facing one count of fraud and breach of trust.

Neuberger, partner at Neuberger & Partners LLP, tells the CBC in a separate interview that the judge’s dismissal of all charges against Duffy sets a precedent for the standard of review of the evidence in all potential and current cases against senators.

"As long as there can be some connection to Senate business, it's going to be an expense that should be allowed and it's not going to be a criminal act," Neuberger says.

Neuberger tells the National that the investigation and the prosecution in the Duffy matter was based on "straw.

“They knew full well after the report on the Senate that the guidelines, rules and policies that were in place for expenditures were archaic, vague and non-specific,” he says. “And so, they were dealing with very unsure ground to launch this investigation and ultimately the prosecution.”

But Neuberger notes that some cases need to play out in a public forum, adding “you can’t underscore the political element” in this one.

“So it needed to be heard in the public and the public needed to hear what the result would be,” he says.

Neuberger says there is recourse available for Duffy now that he has been acquitted, including suing the government and recouping legal fees. He says Duffy may even look at whether the prosecution’s case should have been brought at all.

“He’ll have to make some very serious decisions soon,” he says.

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