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Breach of trust trial begins for former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James

James pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust
Craig James, the former clerk of the B.C. legislature, makes a statement to the media in Vancouver on Monday November 26, 2018. James’s trial on charges of fraud and breach of trust began Monday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

A special prosecutor says the former clerk of the British Columbia legislature took advantage of his position as one of province’s most senior public officials to allegedly use government funds for personal benefit.

Craig James pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer in B.C. Supreme Court on the first day of his trial in Vancouver.

Special prosecutor David Butcher says the allegations against James relate to a retirement allowance of more than $250,000, the purchase of a wood splitter and trailer, as well as travel expenses and personal mementoes.

Butcher told the court the personal items range from books on topics like beekeeping and whisky to cufflinks and a cushion decorated with the Union Jack and the words “God Save the Queen.”

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is hearing the case, which is expected to hear testimony from 27 witnesses over at least three weeks.

Defence lawyers for James have not yet presented arguments in court.

The clerk is the senior officer of the house, responsible for advising the Speaker on parliamentary procedure and performing the key administration functions of the legislature.

James was suspended from the post in 2018 after an RCMP investigation into allegations of spending on personal expenses at the legislature.

“Crown alleges that Mr. James’s conduct at different times and in different ways was a marked departure from the standard of responsible management expected of a person occupying one of the highest offices in the province,” Butcher told the court.

—The Canadian Press

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