One more witness for the Crown’s breach of trust and fraud case against the former B.C. Legislature clerk.
But there could be dozens, or even hundreds, more surprises in the B.C. Supreme Court trial of Craig James.
The Legislative Assembly’s executive financial officer, Hillary Woodward, is scheduled to testify for two days beginning Feb. 17 at the Vancouver Law Courts.
But, near the end of the hearing on Feb. 16, special prosecutor David Butcher dropped a bombshell. He told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Woodward had brought a suitcase full of documents with her from Victoria.
This comes two months after Woodward led prosecutors to discover 11 boxes of documents in the Parliament Buildings basement containing previously undisclosed records about James’s expense claims.
Butcher said he met during the evening of Feb. 15 with Woodward for an hour to prepare for her court appearance.
“She also told me that she had brought a suitcase of documents with her that were in her hotel room,” Butcher said.
He said police came in the morning to review the documents in the suitcase to see which ones were new and which ones weren’t.
“Our next step in the process is to determine whether the new documents are in fact relevant to this case,” Butcher said. “I certainly got the impression that some of them weren’t. So it may be a small amount of paper. It may not be a small amount of paper.”
Butcher conceded that the defence lawyers get exasperated and he gets exasperated back with him.
“That’s not surprising. It’s not a situation that any of us wish. But we are, I think that causes difficulty with Miss Woodward tomorrow,” Butcher said.
“So, what do you suggest?” Holmes asked.
He said he wanted to start with Woodward’s direct testimony and give the defence as much time as it needs to respond to any of the new documents, if they are relevant.
Said James’s lawyer, Gavin Cameron: “So far, the defense has kept the train on the tracks and will keep the train on the tracks. I’ll have problems if documents are pulled out of suitcases in the middle of examinations in chief, but, if [Butcher] thinks he can get some ways, then I think we ought to go.”
Cameron asked for a transcript of the police interview of Woodward. Butcher said she was asked to provide an additional written statement created on her own.
“I went over there at lunchtime, there were two police officers there in a very small boardroom. I thought they might be trying to bring some more in, to just match the contents of the suitcase with the contents of the 4,000 documents in the disclosure,” Butcher said. “But I think we play it by ear and if [Cameron] says I need some time, I’m not going to object to that.”
Meanwhile, earlier on the day, the court heard from a lawyer who said he advised Speaker Bill Barisoff in 2011 that payments under a retirement scheme to James and three others were legal. James received $258,000 under the grandfathered “long service award” program for legislature table officers, one of the charges to which he has pleaded not guilty.
Don Farquhar testified that he met with Barisoff and James for 15 minutes and gave an oral legal opinion to end the program and make the final payments. He said he did not offer advice about James’s eligibility.
“I remember that Mr. Barisoff looked at his watch and said, Craig, how about a bite of lunch?” Farquhar told the court. “And that’s how it ended. You know, that sorta describes the whole atmosphere, so to speak. In other words, okay, let’s let the lawyer have his say and then let’s get out of here.”
James joined the Legislature in 1987 and was appointed the $259,000-a-year clerk in 2011 by the BC Liberal caucus.
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