British Columbia

Crown wants convicted former B.C. Legislature clerk to serve jail time

Crown attorney Brock Matland says a former B.C. official convicted of using public funds for "inappropriate expenses" should serve a year in jail or a term of house arrest.

Craig James was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust in May

Craig James, the former clerk of the British Columbia Legislature, leaves B.C. Supreme Court during a break from his trial in Vancouver on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Crown attorney Brock Martland called for an "unequivocal denunciation" from the court during a sentencing hearing for former British Columbia legislature clerk Craig James on Monday.

Martland said the conduct of James, 71, was a "departure'' by the most senior officer of the legislature. James was found guilty of fraud and breach of trust last May over expenses he claimed at work.

"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,'' said Martland.

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.

The Crown would like to see James jailed for a year 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.

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.

The judge entered a stay on the fraud count because the charges were related to the same evidence, 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.''

James' defence lawyer Gavin Cameron told the sentencing hearing that James is remorseful and has suffered enough. He asked for a conditional sentence, meaning his client wouldn't spend time in jail, arguing incarceration would be a "disproportionate response.''

Cameron said James has faced stigma due to media coverage and "was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion'' long before the court delivered its verdict.

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

"Denunciation has been achieved in spades,'' Cameron said.

Cameron cited other mitigating circumstances in his argument for a lighter sentence, including James' age, being a first-time offender, loss of job and reputation and support letters from colleagues.

The judge has reserved her decision until Friday.