Crown wants jail term for former clerk of the B.C. legislature for breach of trust

Crown wants jail term for former clerk of the B.C. legislature for breach of trust
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. The former clerk of the legislature is expected to hear a judge's ruling today.

VANCOUVER – The actions of the former clerk of British Columbia’s legislature require “unequivocal denunciation” from the court, the Crown attorney said during a sentencing hearing for Craig James on Monday.

Brock Martland said the conduct of James, 71, was a “departure” by the most senior officer of the legislature, who was found guilty in May of fraud and breach of trust over expenses he claimed.

“There are not just theoretical but real risks of undermining public confidence in the institutions of government and of increasing public cynicism about institutions of government,” he said.

Martland said there are situations where conditional sentences are granted, and while they often “involve high dollar amounts,” they usually come with a guilty plea.

He said the Crown would like to see James jailed for a year or to serve a term of house arrest, saying the sentence would act as a deterrent for future public officials.

The Crown also wants James to pay $1,886.72 restitution.

In May, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes found James guilty of fraud and breach of trust related to inappropriate personal expenses, including claiming a new suit and shirts as work attire.

Because the charges were related to the same evidence, the judge entered a stay on the fraud count and he was convicted of breach of trust.

James was found not guilty on three other counts, including one related to a $258,000 retirement benefit.

Holmes ruled James breached the standard of conduct expected of him in his public position in a “serious and marked way.”

She said “his purpose was a dishonest one, to benefit himself at the public’s expense.”

Defence lawyer Gavin Cameron told the sentencing hearing that Jamesis remorseful and has suffered enough as he asked for a conditional sentence, meaning his client wouldn’t spend time in jail.

Incarceration would be a “disproportionate response,” Cameron said.

He said James has faced stigma due to media coverage and “was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion” long before the court determined a verdict.

Cameron said the media coverage should be taken into consideration for sentencing, saying it will serve as more of a deterrent for others than a jail sentence would.

“Denunciation has been achieved in spades to date,” Cameron said.

Other mitigating circumstances include James’ age, being a first-time offender, loss of his job and reputation, and support letters from colleagues, he said.

The judge has reserved her decision until Friday.

-By Brieanna Charlebois

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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