The former BC Liberal-appointed clerk of the B.C. Legislature will not testify at his B.C. Supreme Court fraud and breach of trust trial.
On Feb. 22, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard another half hour of testimony from the final Crown witness, the Legislature’s chief financial officer Hilary Woodward, before adjourning the case four hours.
Craig James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron, said more time was needed to decide the defence’s next steps.
After the trial resumed from lunch break, Cameron simply said: “Having taken instructions, Mr. Westell and I have met with Mr. James. The defence is not calling a case.”
Special prosecutors David Butcher and Brock Martland will begin closing submissions March 1. Cameron and Kevin Westell for James will respond during the two-day hearing. It is expected that Holmes will reserve her verdict, though it is not known how many weeks she will ponder her decision.
When the trial opened Jan. 24, James pleaded not guilty to three charges of breach of public trust and two charges of fraud over $5,000.
“Mr. James was no ordinary employee,” Butcher told the court on Jan. 24. “As the parliamentary equivalent of the CEO, he had responsibility to the institution, the people of British Columbia to manage the affairs and resources of the legislature in an exemplary manner. The 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.”
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.
James, but not Lenz, was charged criminally in December 2020.
Butcher said the case against James has three facets, because the Crown alleges he broke the law by:
Making a claim for more than $250,000 in February 2012 for a retirement allowance to which he was not entitled;
Filing travel expense claims throughout his tenure for clothing and souvenir purchases to which he was not entitled, and;
The 2017 purchase of a woodsplitter and trailer that he stored at his home in Saanich for a year.
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