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Cufflinks, shoes purchased abroad at centre of B.C. legislature clerk fraud trial: Crown

Craig James is facing 2 counts of fraud over $5,000 and 3 counts of breach of trust by a public officer
FILE – Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James makes a statement to the media in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday November 26, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ben Nelms

The second day of former B.C. Legislature clerk Craig Harley James’ trial kicked off at BC Supreme Court in Vancouver Tuesday (Jan. 25).

James has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust by a public officer.

On Tuesday, special prosecutor Brock Martland turned the court’s attention to several items that James allegedly purchased on the public dime, including cufflinks, shoes and whisky.

Some of the items at issue are one pair of cufflinks and one pair of shoes purchased by James during a trip to the U.K. in 2013, with then-speaker Linda Reid. Other shoes and cufflinks, along with a tri-horn hat, were also purchased but are not part of the indictment.

Subsequently more than $2,000 was expensed by James, all purchases from Ede & Ravenscroft, a retailer for ceremonial attire. Martland continued to lay out a list of expenses claimed by James during further trips to the U.K., the U.S. and Vancouver. During a trip to Liberal buildings in Vancouver, James purchased and then expensed suiting from Brook Bros.

Special prosecutor David Butcher also cited a piece of luggage that RCMP seized in 2018. That piece of luggage was purchased by James at London Heathrow Airport in December 2017.

Butcher said that the RCMP seized more items from the legislative clerk’s vault in December 2021, including another pair of cufflinks, a red House of Lords umbrella – which cannot be linked to a specific purchase or reimbursement – a House of Lords golf towel, several House of Lords notebooks, House of Lords erasers, all purchased in England. Further items seized include cufflinks with the seal of the State of Oregon, a guide to the state, both purchased in December 2013.

A Magna Carta calendar, still in its original packaging, was another one of the exhibits brought forward by Butcher as Crown spent hours going through a detailed list of items expensed by James and seized by RCMP. That item was one of many bought during a 2015 trip to the U.K. by James, former sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz – who has not been charged – and both mens’ wives.

The reason behind the trip, all parties agreed, was for the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, an anniversary of the first appointment of the sergeant-at-arms and a professional development conference. Other purchases from the trip included pens, whisky, multiple books and playing cards. In December 2017, Butcher said, James purchased a cushion with a Union Jack designed and the words “God Save the Queen,” purchased at Windsor Castle in Dec 2017.

Previously, the court heard allegations related to a $258,000 retirement allowance. Also at issue is a now-infamous wood splitter and trailer and other travel expenses while James was the B.C. Legislature clerk from 2011 until he was placed on leave in 2018.

The role of the clerk is as the senior permanent officer of the Legislative Assembly. The role is non-partisan and involves interpreting the Standing Orders, conventions, precedents, and usages in order to advise the Speaker and MLAs on parliamentary procedure.

James’ judge-alone trial, presided over by Associate Chief Justice Heather J. Holmes, is scheduled to continue for six weeks at BC Supreme Court in Vancouver. His defence lawyers have not yet presented arguments in court.


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