Former B.C. Legislative clerk Craig James given jail sentence for breach of trust

Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James has been sentenced to three months of conditional imprisonment after being found guilty of breach of trust and fraud for using public funds for personal reasons.

Craig James has been given a three-month conditional jail sentence.| Darren Stone/Times Colonist

Former B.C. legislature clerk Craig James has been sentenced to three months of conditional imprisonment after being found guilty of breach of trust and fraud in May for misusing public funds for personal reasons.

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said James violated the public’s trust in democratic institutions.

“Mr.James’ offences breached that trust at its very heart …within a public institution that society fundamentally depends on,” said Holmes.

Although James expressed remorse to the court, Holmes said she was not convinced he understood the extent of harm to public confidence in institutions.

Crown prosecutors Brock Martland and David Butcher had sought a term of up to one year as well as community service, which Holmes did not impose.

Among mitigating factors in her sentencing, the negative media attention James received was the most considered by Holmes.

She called coverage “scathing” at times, although she told of how she examined how the court must balance negative media attention with the court’s duty of denunciation.

Holmes heard of James’ past personal tragedies, including deaths of his first wife and a stepson. He also suffered from anxiety, Holmes noted.

James is to largely remain at his Victoria area home during the three months.

Holmes initially said for the first month James may not leave his property unless for a medical emergency or appointment. And, in the following two months he is allowed to attend medical appointments of family members between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

However, defense lawyer Gavin Cameron had raised the possibilities of James being able to mow his lawn, to purchase groceries once a week for his ill wife and to attend church. Holmes asked if he could not order food online and attend mass online but prosecutors did not object to such exceptions.

As such Holmes provided James two hours per week for James to shop and attend church.

James was found guilty in May of one count each of breach of trust and fraud under $5,000 related to misspending at the Legislative Assembly of B.C. from September 2011 to November 2018. His fraud charge was stayed for sentencing.

During his six-week trial, Crown prosecutors had alleged James used "public money as his personal slush fund of seemingly limitless depth" to pay for clothing, books and travel items.

It was clothing purchases amounting to just over $1,800 that James was found guilty of. He was ordered to repay that amount to the Crown.

It was determined he was not guilty of breach of trust allegations of improperly obtaining and keeping a $258,000 retirement benefit. James was also determined to be innocent of breach of trust and fraud allegations that he improperly purchased and used a wood-splitter for personal reasons.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca