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Surprise evidence sidelines former B.C. legislature clerk's corruption trial

New evidence from legislature's executive financial officer could be 'exculpatory,' says special Crown prosecutor
Craig James leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver during a break from his trial on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS

A surprise disclosure temporarily sidelined the corruption trial of the former clerk of the legislature on Thursday at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Craig James' successor, Kate Ryan-Lloyd, had taken to the witness stand for the second day of testimony when special Crown prosecutor David Butcher told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that a "potentially, significantly exculpatory” document was submitted by the legislature’s executive financial officer Hilary Woodward.

The court was adjourned while an RCMP officer was called in to interview Ryan-Lloyd regarding the document. Once court resumed, her testimony did not include the evidence as neither the Crown nor the defence had time to review. 

James has pleaded not guilty to five criminal charges—two counts of fraud over $5,000 and three counts of breach of trust for alleged improper spending. He is also accused of an improper $257,988 retirement benefit payout.

Ryan-Lloyd is among several key figures in James' time as clerk, from 2011 until November 2018, when police escorted him out of the legislature. The then-deputy clerk became the acting clerk until her official permanent appointment in March 2020.

In Thursday's line of questioning regarding souvenirs James allegedly purchased in London, England, Ryan-Lloyd said it would be unusual for the legislature to require the likes of House of Lords items and other British paraphernalia.

James is also accused of buying a wood splitter and trailer for personal use under the guise of emergency equipment for the Parliament Buildings.

“There was an expectation any equipment purchased would have a business purpose,” said Ryan-Lloyd. “The purchase of the equipment was to be available in the event of a natural disaster,” she said, adding the fact the trailer was incompatible with legislature vehicles.

“So, there were many questions that surfaced in the fullness of time,” said Ryan-Lloyd.

Ryan-Lloyd was also asked about chamber attire as James had expensed business suits. Asked if Ryan-Lloyd would do the same, she replied she would not as her work clothes were personal items.

She further said while there was no policy on travel expenses at the time of the alleged crimes, she would have made reasonable judgments so that only necessities, such as accommodation and transportation, were paid for with public funds.

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