Why does Murder Conviciton not result in Dishonorable Discharge
The defamed Canadian Force Colonel Russell Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two sexual assaults and 82 home invasions in a court in Belleville, Ontario yesterday.
A conviction carries with it an automatic sentence of 25 years without possiblity of parole for 25 years. Williams will be in jail until at least age 72 until he can apply for parole.
The Canadian Forces is mulling on how to administratively deal with Williams. Releasing him will be without problem. The military is also looking at unprecedented action which would reduce Williams in rank and take away any awards he may have earned during his career. Some of this may be problematic.
Williams, who is being tried by a civilian court, cannot be tried again for disgraceful conduct since that would be judging him twice on the same charges. This is new ground and the Canadian Forces has to conform to the National Defence Act and Canadian law.
Williams will also be entitled to a military pension. That pension is estimated to be around $60,000 annually. Since his arrest, Williams also collected his salary, which is estimated at $12,000 a month. There is consensus that most Canadians would like to have that taken away. This would require the Canadian government to enact legislation.
There is presently a move afoot to stop Old Age Security Pensions for those imprisoned. The issue came to light, when it was revealed that Clifford Olson, who slaughtered two children and nine teenagers, was receiving an Old Age Security pension.
In Williams' case, he contributed to the pension for the 24 years he was in the military. Due to his high profile, the issue has been raised. There have to be other prisoners in the system that have contributed to private pension funds, which can't be touched.
There is no doubt that Williams has brought discredit upon the Canadian Forces and there has to be a way to deal with it administratively. His actions are beyond a pale. Somehow the man slipped through the cracks and made it to the top ranks of the military. He was a VIP pilot that carried Queen Elizabeth II, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. His military performance landed him in command of the largest Air Base in Canada.
The sad part here is that Captain Robert Semrau was convicted of disgraceful conduct by mercy killing an insurgent on the battlefield and was reduced in rank to Second Lieutenant and kicked out of the Canadian Forces. Based on Colonel Williams' crime, Semrau is a hero.
Whether there is a way to streamline the selection and promotion process is questionable. All that's left now is to watch and see how the military handles this within the confines of the law.