OTTAWA – Senator Mike Duffy’s defence lawyer says he is worried about the health of the “overwhelmed” parliamentarian after an Ottawa judge cleared of him of all charges related to the Senate expense saga.
“You’ve heard of how many people suddenly leave work and then have a heart attack and die,” said Donald Bayne told Tom Clark during an interview on The West Block this Sunday.
“I told he and Heather you’ve just been though something remarkable. You can’t even begin to understand how profound this experience has been for you and will continue to be…. This is going to take a while to recover from.”
Duffy has been uncharacteristically quiet since Thursday, when Justice Charles Vaillancourt found him not guilty on 31 charges of fraud and bribery related to his Senate expenses.
He has not said if or when he will return to work, but Bayne said he expects Duffy to return to the Upper Chamber and “adopt a very low-profile.”
Vaillancourt judgement included an unprecedented and scathing indictment of the “ruthless” tactics of the Prime Minister’s Office under Stephen Harper, but Bayne said he wasn’t surprised by the judge’s words.
“He didn’t make it up. It’s all in the material,” he said.
Last week’s verdict comes more than three years after questions first started being raised about Duffy’s living and travel expenses.
The Senate suspended Duffy without pay – a move Bayne said was contrary to the rule of law because it presume Duffy guilty.
It wasn’t until July 2014 that Duffy was charged with 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Duffy always maintained he had done nothing wrong he pleaded not guilty to all of them.
Bayne recalls trying to stop a rush to judgement long before there were any charges, holding a press conference up on Parliament Hill to defence Duffy.
“I hoped I could stop the train wreck in the Senate from what they ultimately did, suspending without pay, leading to criminal charges, by saying look there is all of this evidence, there is quite a different side to this story,” Bayne said.
And the judge agreed with Duffy’s side of the story, calling him a “credible witness,” dismantling the Crown’s case and clearing the Senator’s name.
It was a case that Bayne said should never have gone to court at all.
But he said he hopes the Senate has learned from this process, that it cannot create rules, approve activities and expenses under those rules and then change them on a whim.
“It’s not a case of no rules,” he said. “The rules said you specifically can do this. Mike Duffy didn’t walk into a situation and say I’m going to take advantage of a vacuum,” Bayne said. “He read the rules. He then went to the senate Tory caucus leader and got instruction on them. He was told these expenses were perfectly valid.”
Watch the full interview with Donald Bayne above.