Vice-Admiral Norman Mark Norman said today he’s pleased to be “exonerated of any wrongdoing” but is disappointed by the “alarming and protracted bias” in his case.
During a news conference in Ottawa following the announcement that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada would be staying a single breach of trust charge against him, Norman said he has no regrets about his conduct.
“I am confident that at all times I acted with integrity, I acted ethically and I acted in the best interests of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Forces and, ultimately, the people of Canada,” he said.
Norman said he is now looking forward to getting back to work, but is disappointed it took this long.
“The alarming and protracted bias of perceived guilt across the senior levels of government has been quite damaging and the emotional and financial impacts of the entire ordeal have taken a toll,” he said.
Norman said he has an “important story” to tell Canadians, which he will be sharing in the coming days.
The Crown announced earlier today that it had stayed the charge, adding that new information that had come to light through Norman’s defence team convinced the prosecution that there was no longer a reasonable chance of conviction.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced today the federal government would be paying Norman’s legal fees.
The prosecution said Norman’s actions were inappropriate and secretive, but that doesn’t mean a crime was committed.
“Inappropriate does not mean criminal,” said Barbara Mercier, the lead prosecutor.
Speaking to reporters after the court proceeding, Mercier declined to describe the new information that convinced the prosecution to drop the case.
“This was a very complex case … I cannot get into the specifics of that information. The defence counsel gave it to us under certain conditions for our purposes only,” she said.
“But I will say that, absorbing it, comparing it to investigation materials, we came to that conclusion, that there’s no probable prospect of conviction.”
Mercier insisted that there was no political interference in the case.
“The Department of Public Prosecutions decided to lay the charge, and they decided today, we decided alone, without political interference whatsoever, that we couldn’t make the charge,” she said.
Norman had been accused of leaking cabinet secrets in relation to a $668 million shipbuilding deal to lease a supply vessel. He was accused of leaking to both an executive at the Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que., which leased a supply ship to the navy, and to a CBC journalist.
Asked when he intends to return to work as he left the courthouse, Norman replied, “As soon as I possibly can.”
His lawyer Marie Henein issued a statement on his behalf, calling the Crown’s decision “bittersweet” because the personal cost to Norman and his family from the two-year legal battle can never be repaid.
“It has been difficult and demoralizing,” the statement reads. “We have resilient institutions in this country and eventually those institutions got to the right result. But let’s not forget, that only came after a long and hard fight and at great personal cost to Vice-Admiral Norman.”
The high profile, politically charged case saw the Liberal government face allegations of political interference from both the Opposition Conservatives and Norman’s defence team.
The defence had claimed, in both arguments and court filings, that the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office had attempted to orchestrate the prosecution of the case.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment on the case on his way into a Liberal caucus meeting today.
“The process involved in a public prosecution like this is entirely independent of my office,” he said. “It’s an independent process and we have confidence in the work done by the director of public prosecutions.”
Director of Public Prosecutions Kathleen Roussel issued a statement that said the Crown concluded it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Norman’s conduct in this case amounted to a “serious and marked departure from the standards expected of a person in his position of trust.” That decision was based on the evidence, the law and the “principles regarding reasonable prospect of conviction,” she said.
No political influence
“No other factors were considered in this decision, nor was there any contact or influence from outside the PPSC, including political influence in either the initial decision to prosecute Mr. Norman or in the decision to stay the charge today,” Roussel said.
CBC News confirmed late Tuesday that prosecutors intended to drop the charge, after the federal prosecution service took the unusual step of advising reporters they “may wish to attend” the court proceeding this morning. The news was initially reported by The National Post.
Andrew Leslie, a retired lieutenant-general who was elected in 2015, announced May 1 he was stepping away from politics after one term as a Liberal MP. It was reported last week that Leslie would be testifying for Norman’s defence.
When Norman arrived at the Ottawa courthouse Wednesday morning, he was greeted by Leslie. Norman had little to say to reporters on his way in.
“It’s a beautiful day, thank you,” he said.
CBC News caught up with Chantier Davie CEO Spencer Fraser outside the courtroom Wednesday. He said there will be an opportunity to speak more about the case as it “gets more explored.”
“Today, I want to talk about the fact that justice has been served and Mark Norman is innocent, as we’ve always said he is,” he said.
One other person has been charged in relation to the alleged leak of cabinet information. Matthew Matchett, a federal procurement official who was named in documents related to Norman’s defence, was charged with a single count of breach of trust in February. He pleaded not guilty at a hearing in March and elected to stand trial by judge and jury.
This story originally appeared on CBC