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HomeBusinessSpecial prosecutor concerned omicron could delay Legislature spending scandal trial

Special prosecutor concerned omicron could delay Legislature spending scandal trial

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Bob Mackin

One of the special prosecutors in the breach of trust and fraud case against the former B.C. Legislature clerk suggested the coronavirus pandemic could delay the trial.

Brock Martland (vancrimlaw.com)

Craig James is scheduled to be tried beginning Jan. 24 in Vancouver before B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. The trial is expected to last six weeks.  

During a Jan. 6 pretrial hearing, special prosecutor Brock Martland said all lawyers intend to be ready to proceed on schedule. While he did not ask for an adjournment, he expressed concerns about the rapidly spreading omicron variant. 

“Dr. [Bonnie] Henry suggested the variant would be peaking in the range of four-to-six weeks from now, which would put us in the middle of this trial,” Martland said during the phone hearing. 

Martland said the Crown intends to call 26 witnesses, mainly from Vancouver Island. But, during pretrial interviews with witnesses, he heard their “repeated concerns” about COVID-19, traveling to Vancouver and being in a courtroom. He said fellow special prosecutor David Butcher was involved in a preliminary inquiry this week in which two of eight witnesses and a prosecutor had the virus.

On Dec. 31, B.C. Supreme Court adjourned in-person criminal proceedings scheduled for Jan. 4-7, except phone hearings to arrange a new appearance date.

“The court will try to give counsel as much notice as possible, but I think we will all know more in a week or two’s time,” said Holmes, who approved applications for two Crown witnesses to testify remotely due to the pandemic.

James’s lawyer Gavin Cameron chimed-in.  

“I just want to put on the record that Mr. James absolutely does not want this trial adjourned, and he has been living under this cloud since 2018,” Cameron said.

Holmes scheduled another pre-trial conference for Jan. 18.  “Perhaps, who knows, we’ll have a better idea then of how the pandemic is developing and what, if any, action might need to be taken,” she said.  

Clerk Craig James swore Christy Clark in as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013, near Clark’s Vancouver office. (Facebook)

Meanwhile, the court also heard that 11 boxes relating to James’s expense claims were found in the basement of the Parliament Buildings on Dec. 17 after a witness interview earlier that day. Butcher said police collected the items. Photographs and a spreadsheet of the items are being provided to James’s lawyers. 

James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz were immediately suspended and escorted out of the Legislature on Nov. 20, 2018. On that day, British Columbians learned that Speaker Darryl Plecas had called the RCMP after he and his Chief of Staff Alan Mullen found corruption in the offices of the two most-senior permanent officers at the seat of government. James was charged on Dec. 17, 2020.

James and Lenz both retired in disgrace in 2019 after separate reports found they committed wrongdoing. They kept their pension entitlements, but they were not forced to repay taxpayers. No charges were announced for Lenz. 

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