The B.C. Supreme Court trial of former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig James is taking a day off.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes agreed to allow lawyers for both sides to spend Feb. 4 negotiating a reduction in witnesses for the fraud and breach of trust trial that opened Jan. 24.
Special Prosecutor David Butcher said some witnesses were being more repetitive than corroborative. With fewer witnesses, he said, the Crown will be able to finish its case in two weeks, leaving the defence two weeks for its case.
Sixty-seven witnesses were on the original list, but that was reduced to 27 through the use of admissions statements.
It won’t, however, be a political-free Friday at the Law Courts. A petition filed by BC Liberal member Vikram Bajwa of Surrey will be heard on short notice. Bajwa wants a judge to delay the scheduled Feb. 5 crowning of a new BC Liberal leader due to allegations of widespread voter fraud related to frontrunner Kevin Falcon.
James’s trial heard Feb. 3 from former acting sergeant-at-arms Randy Ennis. In the January 2019 bombshell report by Speaker Darryl Plecas, Ennis was credited with informing Plecas about the wood splitter that is now the subject of one of James’s charges.
Ennis was a senior officer in the Legislative Assembly Protective Services when he took over from the suspended sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz in November 2018. Ennis retired from the Legislative Assembly in May 2019 and now works as a Commissionaire at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.
Under cross-examination, James’s lawyer Gavin Cameron asked Ennis about an investigation into spending by Plecas’s predecessor, Linda Reid. A whistleblower, Connor Gibson, had been fired at the end of May 2018 after reporting irregularities in Reid’s expense claims. The investigation was halted, but Ennis denied that anyone told him not to investigate and or to shut it down.
Butcher objected to the line of questioning, saying the trial is “the fruit of an RCMP investigation,” not about what Plecas did.
Plecas’s first report to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee said James told him that he ordered his then-deputy, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, to “rein” Lenz in and stop the investigation.
Ennis testified that he had a heated meeting with Plecas and his chief of staff, Alan Mullen, where he was yelled at and told “you’re either with us or against us.” Ennis said he was pressured to give Plecas one of his keys to James’s office, and wished the RCMP had quarantined it instead.
Ennis testified that did not remember the date of that meeting, except that it was “shortly after Mr. James and Mr. Lenz were taken off the precinct.”
Butcher tried to jog Ennis’s memory on when Plecas retired.
Ennis: “I think he didn’t run in the next election. So he wouldn’t have been an MLA.”
Asked when that election was, Ennis said: “I’d left the Legislative Assembly at that time. And the last thing I was thinking about.”
Meanwhile, facilities manager Surj Dhanota said there had been three locations proposed for the wood splitter and trailer bought for $13,000 in October 2017, but work was never approved. James kept it at his Cordova Bay house for a year. Because James’s house was 13 km away, it was “utterly useless” as a purported firewood tool should a disaster occur in Victoria.
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