The lawyer for the ex-clerk of the B.C. Legislature told B.C. Supreme Court that the special prosecutors have not proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and that he should be acquitted of fraud and breach of trust charges.
“He’s guilty of bureaucratic ineptitude. That’s not a crime,” his lawyer, Gavin Cameron, said March 2 on the second day of final submissions.
Cameron told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that James is not a felon, motivated by corruption or deceit.
“After more than three years of what can only be millions of dollars of investigative effort, leaving no stone or document unturned, the Crown cannot credibly suggest there was a personal collection of coins or stamps at Mr. James’s home, or a forest in the backyard of his strata lot which was chopped for benefit or gain. There were no fictitious or fake trips or acquisitions, which is what one would normally see in a fraud or breach of trust case.”
Cameron called the Crown’s case weak and said it shifted targets, focusing on incidents of James buying souvenirs, clothing and luggage for personal benefit and then made it a case about overbuying.
“It’s effectively a negligence case, you bought too many things and didn’t give them out. That’s why they were unopened,” Cameron said.
He said the court could find James to have been unreasonable, behaving improperly and not compliant, but “that does not come close to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that his actions at the time they took place, were motivated by corruption and animated by deceit.”
Cameron called the $258,000 retirement benefit that James allegedly crafted for himself “only an allegation of breach of trust” and the $13,000 woodsplitter and trailer, “a bit of a moving target.”
Cameron said ex-Speaker Bill Barisoff tasked James to find a lawyer to advise on the grandfathered long-service award program. He also called the documentation behind the benefit “unclear and vague.”
“A lawyer advised Mr. James, he was entitled to the retirement benefit, full stop,” he said. “And this is not a breach of contract or solicitor’s negligence case.”
The case is expected to wrap on March 3. Holmes is also expected to offer an estimate of how long she will need to reach a verdict.
On March 2, special prosecutor Brock Martland recounted testimony from 20 witnesses and some of the 535 exhibits as evidence that James had intentionally fleeced taxpayers for his own personal gain. “Our position is that the public’s trust was violated repeatedly and extensively by Craig James,” Martland said.
James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were suspended immediately by vote of the Legislature on Nov. 18, 2018 and escorted away from the Parliament Buildings. They were under RCMP investigation after then-Speaker Darryl Plecas and chief of staff Alan Mullen found evidence of corruption. James and Lenz demanded their jobs back and claimed they did no wrong. But, after separate investigations in 2019, they resigned. They did not repay taxpayers.
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