Navy spy sentenced to 20 years in prison

Jeffrey Paul Delisle arrives for his sentencing at the provincial court in Halifax, Nova Scotia February 8, 2013. Delisle pleaded guilty to the charges of giving secret information to Russia in a four-year espionage operation, in October 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Devaan Ingraham


HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia judge said Jeffrey Paul Delisle "coldly and rationally" betrayed his country and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for selling secrets to the Russians.

"That's a big chunk out of the rest of your life," Judge Patrick Curran told Delisle. "That may be a sad thing in the eyes of some, but it's a necessary thing through the eyes of the public of Canada."

Curran picked the sentencing recommendation of Crown attorney Lyne Decarie, but gave Delisle credit for time served in custody since his arrest last January.

That means the 42-year-old faces another 18 years and five months in prison and will be eligible for parole after six years.

Asked if she thought the people of Canada will be happy with the sentence, Decarie said: "I hope so."

Delisle is the first person in Canada to face charges under the Security of Information Act and Decarie thinks the decision provides a strong deterrent.

Mike Taylor, Delisle's defence lawyer, had argued for a nine- or 10-year sentence. He had a long meeting with his client before emerging to speak with reporters.

"He's still a little bit in shock," Taylor said. "It's a significant sentence that he received and one that, quite frankly, I don't think he was really expecting."

The maximum penalty for the charge is life in prison.

Delisle pleaded guilty last October to selling secrets to the Russians between July 6, 2007, and Jan. 10, 2012. The guilty plea spared the military some embarrassment and the possibility of more security breaches during a trial - something the judge took into account.

Taylor said it's too early to decide whether to appeal.

During the sentencing hearing, Taylor tried to show there's no proof Delisle's espionage caused real damage.

Curran, though, said that doesn't matter.

"A person who discloses state secrets commits a grave offence whether or not actual harm has resulted or can be determined," the judge said.

Curran also ordered Delisle to pay a $111,817 fine - equal to what the Russians paid him. He gave Delisle 20 years to pay and if he doesn't, he'll have to spend another two years behind bars.

Gen. Tom Lawson, chief of the defence staff, called Delisle's behaviour "odious" and vowed to speed up the administrative review that will strip the former naval intelligence officer of his rank and salary.

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