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Former B.C. legislature clerk guilty on one count of fraud, breach of trust

Craig James not guilty of fraud or breach of trust in relation to retirement benefit, woodsplitter
Craig James, former clerk of the B.C. legislative assembly, arrives back at B.C. Supreme Court after a break from his trial, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. A special prosecutor says British Columbia’s former clerk of the legislative assembly used public funds to enrich himself in "glaring and egregious" ways during closing arguments. James’s defence is expected to present its case Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The former clerk of the British Columbia legislature Craig James has been found guilty on one count of breach of trust and one count of fraud.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, of the B.C. Supreme Court, found James guilty of breach of trust and fraud for the purchase of $1,800 in clothes, but not in relation to a myriad of purchases from gift shops on overseas trips.

The clothes in question were purchased in Vancouver and in London at Ede & Ravenscroft — the oldest tailors in London specializing in suits and chamber attire. James claimed the purchases were for “chamber attire”, but they were not. Holmes said James was dishonest in his expenses on the suits for that reason.

James was not guilty of breach of trust for collecting a $258,000 long-time service benefit and not guilty of breach of trust in relation to the purchase of a now-infamous wood splitter for “emergencies” at the B.C. legislature that was kept at his home. Holmes found that the Crown had not proven these charges.

James originally pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of breach of trust for alleged improper spending.

Crown lawyers have argued James took advantage of weak policies that allowed him to make the expense claims.

They told the court James operated as the CEO of the legislature and had an obligation to follow proper financial guidelines after being informed of shortcomings in standards.

Defence lawyers have said then-Speaker Darryl Plecas was among at least three others who gave approval for equipment that their client expensed in case of an earthquake or other natural disaster. They argued that James was not guilty of any criminal offence. Instead, they argued he was guilty of “bureaucratic ineptitude”.

James resigned in 2019, months after RCMP escorted him off the grounds of the legislature and he was put on administrative leave from a job he’d held for eight years.

Since James’ departure, guidelines for expenses have been implemented for the legislative assembly. His successor, Kathy Ryan-Lloyd, refused to accept the same retirement benefit that James received.

—With files from The Canadian Press

RELATED: Trial of former B.C. legislature clerk ends, verdict delayed until March 30


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