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Sailor who deserted ship gets reprimand, fine

By: The Canadian Press

 | May 07, 2014 - 9:59 AM |
Lt. Derek De Jong and his wife Maria head from court after his court martial in Halifax on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. De Jong was given a severe reprimand and a $5,000 fine for deserting his post on a navy supply vessel in September 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Lt. Derek De Jong and his wife Maria head from court after his court martial in Halifax on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. De Jong was given a severe reprimand and a $5,000 fine for deserting his post on a navy supply vessel in September 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX - A Royal Canadian Navy officer was given a severe reprimand and a $5,000 fine Wednesday by a military judge for deserting his post in September 2012.

Lt. Derek de Jong was aboard the supply ship HMCS Preserver in Key West, Fla., when he left the vessel and returned to Halifax.

De Jong told his court martial that prior to deserting, he was subjected to harassment that included a female colleague urinating in his cabin.

The defence had asked for a reprimand and a fine, while a military prosecutor wanted de Jong reprimanded and demoted one rank to sub-lieutenant.

The maximum sentence for desertion under the National Defence Act is life in prison.

During the court martial, defence lawyer Major Sara Collins argued that de Jong, 43, had an "impeccable" service record and the unqualified support of his superior officer.

The agreed statement of facts in the case says de Jong signed a letter to his commander on the day of his desertion. It says he had been working in a toxic environment and that he had visited the sick bay and requested to be sent back to Canada for medical reasons.

The statement says despite attempts by a senior officer to persuade him to stay, de Jong left the ship in civilian clothes. He flew back to Halifax where he turned himself in to military police.

During testimony earlier this week, de Jong said his decision to leave was wrong and he feels remorse for it.

He said a medical examination completed after he returned to Canada indicated he was suffering from excessive stress and a heart condition.

The prosecutor in the case, Lt.-Cmdr. Darin Reeves, has said de Jong's harassment allegations can be dealt with outside of the court martial.

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