The six-week trial of former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James has ended, but Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said she won’t be able to deliver a verdict until March 30.
James’ defence spent the final day of the trial presenting their closing argument, saying that James had no criminal intent in his actions as clerk and did not act in a way to personally enrich himself.
At the heart of the trial were issues around a $258,000 retirement benefit, James’ role in the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer for the legislature that was kept at his home and the purchase of a number of items from gift shops while he travelled for work purposes.
Kevin Westell, a defence lawyer for James, argued that each of the purchases was made transparently and that James had no intention of hiding his activities. He also added that James’ approach to receiving the retirement benefit was akin to any normal negotiations around salary and benefits.
On the matter of the now notorious wood splitter, Westell argued that it was former manager Randy Spraggett who led efforts to purchase the wood splitter and the item only ended up at James’ home because of a lack of appropriate spaces on legislature grounds.
Locations they considered at the legislature included a lawn that would be too soggy during rainy weather and a space that could be created using crushed rock, though that was ruled out as being too close to the street and susceptible for use as a garbage receptacle by the public, Westell said.
The wood splitter and trailer were bought after discussions about the lack of power for several weeks in a large area of Puerto Rico, and the belief that some equipment would be needed to cut wood, rebar and concrete as well as to rescue trapped people, he said.
Whether reasonable capital purchases were eventually made is irrelevant to the charges faced by James, Westell said, adding several items including luggage and books that his client bought during business trips don’t amount to any wrongdoing.
James has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer during his time serving as clerk between 2011 and 2018. He resigned in 2019 after being suspended in 2018 when police began investigating.
Westell argued that James should be acquitted of all five charges. None of the allegations against James have been proven in court.
Justice Holmes will deliver her verdict via teleconference at 9:30 am on March 30.
– With files from the Canadian Press