Advertisement

Fraud and breach of trust trial for former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James begins

Click to play video: 'Trial begins for former B.C. legislature clerk' Trial begins for former B.C. legislature clerk
The trial that was first set in motion by a shocking announcement more than three years ago has begun in a Vancouver courtroom. Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James is facing charges of fraud and breach of trust. Grace Ke reports – Jan 24, 2022

The criminal fraud and breach of trust trial for former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James began in a Vancouver courtroom on Monday.

A special prosecutor said the former clerk took advantage of his position as one of province’s most senior public officials to allegedly use government funds for personal benefit.

On the first day of his trial, James pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer in B.C. Supreme Court.

Click to play video: 'Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James charged with fraud' Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James charged with fraud
Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James charged with fraud – Dec 18, 2020

Special prosecutor David Butcher said the allegations against James relate to a retirement allowance of more than $250,000, the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer, as well as travel expenses and personal mementoes.

Story continues below advertisement

Butcher told the court the personal items range from books on topics like beekeeping and whisky to cufflinks and a cushion decorated with the Union Jack and the words “God Save the Queen.”

Former Sergeant at Arms, Gary Lenz, who was suspended with James when news of the alleged spending scandal broke in November 2018, was not charged and has denied any wrongdoing.

James has elected to be tried by a judge alone and his defence lawyers have not yet presented arguments in court.

Read more: Former clerk of B.C. legislature pleads not guilty to five counts

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is hearing the case, which is expected to hear testimony from 27 witnesses over at least three weeks.

James had originally been charged with six counts, but in a ruling posted online, Holmes quashed the first breach of trust charge for several reasons, including that it duplicated other charges and could prejudice the trial process.

At a hearing in May 2021, James’ lawyers argued that the first count alleging the breach in connection with his duties was a duplicate charge and would only confuse the jury at trial.

Click to play video: 'Former B.C. legislature clerk accused of lining his own pockets' Former B.C. legislature clerk accused of lining his own pockets
Former B.C. legislature clerk accused of lining his own pockets – Dec 18, 2020

The clerk is the senior officer of the house, responsible for advising the Speaker on parliamentary procedure and performing the key administration functions of the legislature.

Story continues below advertisement

James was suspended from the post in 2018 after an RCMP investigation into allegations of spending on personal expenses at the legislature.

“Crown alleges that Mr. James’s conduct at different times and in different ways was a marked departure from the standard of responsible management expected of a person occupying one of the highest offices in the province,” Butcher told the court.

With files from The Canadian Press

Sponsored content