Closing submissions underway for former B.C. legislature clerk charged with fraud, breach of trust

Closing arguments are underway in one of the most anticipated trials in recent B.C. political history.

Craig James, the former clerk of the B.C. legislature, is charged with two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

As the Crown began closing submissions in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday morning, James sat next to his defence team, listening attentively and taking his own notes.

The Crown prosecutor suggested James used his senior position as legislature clerk to enrich himself personally, in an “egregious and outrageous way.”

James is accused of approving a retirement allowance for himself of more than $250,000. He’s also suspected of using public money to buy a now-infamous wood splitter and cargo trailer. Some of his travel expenses are also in question, including souvenir purchases.

The Crown told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that James claimed the wood splitter and cargo trailer would be used in case of emergencies at the Legislature. However, the equipment stayed at his house for one year immediately after being purchased, with James’ neighbour saying he saw the trailer allegedly being used by James at home.

The prosecutor also read out past emails sent by James to other legislature officials. In one of them, he describes the cargo trailer as perfect, and says he is now ready to haul. The prosecution argued there would be no reason for James to haul anything in his high-ranking senior position as legislature clerk, unless it was for personal use.

In November of 2018, James, along with then Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, was escorted out of the legislature following an internal investigation launched by the House Speaker’s office, which found multiple instances of questionable spending.

The court has heard from multiple witnesses, including James’ former deputy clerk, but James did not testify. The month-long judge-only trial is expected to wrap up this week. None of the allegations against James has been proven in court.

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