A former Canadian Armed Forces member has been found guilty of five charges relating to sexual assault, voyeurism and disgraceful conduct after facing a court martial at CFB Esquimalt.
In the small courtroom, retired Cpl. Colin McGregor sat quietly Monday morning, while Military Judge Cmdr. Martin Pelletier read his reasons for the guilty verdict on five of the seven charges McGregor faced.
Three women sat in the front row, wiping tears and shaking their heads occasionally while the judgment was read. The women’s names are protected by a publication ban. According to prosecutor Maj. Greg Moorehead, two of the women are named in the charges while the third is a family member who was there for emotional support.
The offences occurred between Jan. 1, 2011 and Jan. 30, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia in the United States – where McGregor was living and working as a resource management support clerk with Canadian Defence liaison staff – and in Victoria.
McGregor was convicted of placing spy cameras and audio recording devices in a Canadian Armed Forces colleague’s residence – in order to record her for sexual purposes – as well as the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C.
According to Pelletier’s reasoning, McGregor was given access to a coworkers home to feed her fish while she was away at Christmas time. A few weeks later, the coworker found a USB drive behind her headboard, along with another recording device on a bookshelf across from her bed.
McGregor also used a digital clock with a camera hidden in it to record women going to the bathroom in his home.
In text messages between McGregor and one of the victims, McGregor stated he was sorry for his actions and had only recorded her secretly to know what she said about him in his absence.
The court heard that along with the photos found on the recording devices, there was a video showing the left hand and forearm of the cameraman inappropriately touching an unconscious woman laying on the ground. The video, taken in Esquimalt in 2011, showed a tattoo similar to one on McGregor’s arm. Another video, appearing to be taken from outside her home, showed a victim engaging in intercourse inside.
One of the victims affirmed she was the unconscious woman in the first video, believing it to be taken on a night when she invited McGregor over for drinks and video games. She described a period of blacking out and awoke to find McGregor touching her inappropriately, thus ending their friendship abruptly.
McGregor originally faced a court martial trial in September 2018. All evidence was presented, but McGregor was not presented with a verdict.
Pelletier was unable to move forward with issuing a verdict after a separate court martial case found that it was unconstitutional to deny military members the right to ask for a trial by a full jury. Ordinarily, military members may ask for a trial by jury, but instead of 12 people which civilians face, military personnel face five.
The decision put a wrench in usual proceedings, as it called into question whether the military has the jurisdiction to try serious cases.
As a result, Pelletier adjourned the court to await more progress in the Supreme Court of Canada for a final decision, and clarification as to how to progress.
This, said defence lawyer David Hodson, impeded on McGregor’s right to a trial without delay. A 2016 decision with the Supreme Court of Canada states that a person has the right to be tried within 18 months of their charges.
Hodson presented an application on May 27 to stay the charges against McGregor as a result of an unreasonable delay, but Pelletier dismissed the application and the trial moved forward.
|Maj. Greg Moorehead, representing the victims of Colin McGregor, speaks to the media outside the court marital in CFB Esquimalt, after McGregor was found guilty of five charges relating to sexual assault, voueryism and disgraceful conduct. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)|
According to Moorehead, McGregor will not spend time in military jail since he has already been released, but whether he goes to a provincial or a federal penitentiary will be decided by civilian corrections services.
One of the charges McGregor was found guilty of — disgraceful conduct — falls under the National Defence Act, which, according to Moorehead, captures behaviors that are breaches of personal discipline. “Personal discipline is critical to the military … one must demonstrate a habit of obedience to orders and must do as they’re told in critical times,” says Moorehead, adding the charge can carry a sentence of up to five years imprisonment.
“Sexual assault is very personal and extremely corrosive,” he says. “It degrades cohesion, military effectiveness and morale which is unique to the military and is something that must be prosecuted.”
Court continues this week with victim impact statements. Sentencing is expected by the end of the week. According to Moorehead, there is provision for the reduction of rank that will be added to jail time.
- With files from Nicole Crescenzi
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