Duffy Trial: Crown needed to prove intent to get a conviction, says expert

Click to play video: 'Crown argument on common sense difficult: Spratt'
Crown argument on common sense difficult: Spratt
Defence attorney Michael Spratt tells Vassy Kapelos the prosecution of Senator Mike Duffy on fraud charges was difficult because the crown needed to prove intent to get a conviction. – Apr 17, 2016

Embattled Senator Mike Duffy is expected to learn his legal fate later this week, and according to one legal expert, it could be a mixed bag.

Duffy is facing 31 charges related to housing and travel expense claims, consulting contracts, and a $90,000 cheque he received from then Prime Minister Harper’s right hand man, Nigel Wright.

Here’s a look back at the trial:

Click to play video: 'West Block primer: Senator Mike Duffy trial'
West Block primer: Senator Mike Duffy trial


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Defence attorney Michael Spratt, who has watched the Duffy trial closely from the start, says the verdicts on the various charges may be very different. Where Duffy may be in the most trouble, Spratt said, is the $65,000 “slush fund” of taxpayers’ money that he allegedly set up with his friend Gerald Donohue to pay for services the Senate would not cover, such as makeup and personal training.

“Funneling money through Donohue, I think he’s in some trouble on those charges,” Spratt predicted.

When it comes to the charges related to Duffy’s residency expenses, things get a little more complicated, he said.

“I think that there is enough ambiguity there that he might escape liability. And with some of the other fraud charges, I think sort of the lack of rules, the lawlessness in the Senate might actually work to his advantage there and there’s some pretty technical legal points that might play out in his favour.”

The other issue with the fraud charges is that the Crown had to prove intent, said the veteran defence attorney, and that’s always a high bar to clear.

“You have to prove that he not only took money that he wasn’t entitled to, but also he did so fraudulently with a guilty mind. You have to prove that he knew what he was doing was wrong and that he went and did it anyway.”

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READ MORE: Click here full coverage of the Duffy trial

That why Duffy’s defence team focused on the lack of rules in the Senate, he pointed out, attempting to highlight that if there are no rules, it’s hard to prove that you’ve broken them.

With the Senate still in a certain amount of turmoil, Spratt said, the outcome of the Duffy trial could provide some much-needed direction for the Red Chamber.

“I think certainly it’s going to provide a good starting point to determine what are the rules in the Senate, what is normal practices in the Senate, and that certainly provides some context to examine the actions of other senators.”

Watch the full interview with Michael Spratt above.

WATCH: A primer on the Duffy scandal

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