Recover costs from guilty staff, B.C. told

The B.C. government should try to recover legal fees paid on behalf of employees found guilty of crimes, a review recommends.

VICTORIA – The B.C. government should try to recover legal fees paid on behalf of employees found guilty of crimes related to their employment, according to an outside review of the policy released Thursday.

University of B.C. president Stephen Toope was appointed in May to review the province’s policy of covering legal fees for public servants who are sued or charged in connection with their duties. Toope concluded that there are valid reasons to protect accused employees, but if they are found guilty, action to recover costs should be automatic.

The review was sparked by a $6 million payout to settle legal fees for ministerial assistants Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, who abruptly pleaded guilty this spring to taking bribes in connection with the sale of BC Rail operations in 2002. Their prosecution stretched out for seven years, mostly due to wrangling over defence demands for disclosure of thousands of government documents.

Toope was not asked to review the payout in the Basi-Virk case, which is being investigated by B.C. Auditor-General John Doyle. The existing policy leans heavily on the discretion of bureaucrats, and was added to over the years in response to specific cases.

The first time defence costs were paid in a B.C. criminal case was when former premier Glen Clark was charged with breach of trust involving a casino licence granted to a neighbour. Clark was acquitted.

Two deputy ministers reviewed the Basi-Virk case and concluded the accused had nowhere near the assets to cover their legal bills. So the province paid the bills and didn’t try to recover the cost.

Attorney General Shirley Bond promised Thursday that the government will take away the discretion to make that choice in future cases. New regulations will specify cost recovery from those convicted, but the government will still use “common sense” to weigh the costs and benefits of legal action, Bond said.

NDP attorney general critic Leonard Krog said the government ordered Toope’s report to deflect attention away from the Basi-Virk case, which was settled just as it was to begin calling witnesses.

Toope examined the 95 cases since 1999 where legal fees were covered by the province. Most were lawsuits involving public servants, and the average cost was $27,000.

Just Posted

Rural dividend grants awarded in Kootenay West

Kootenay West MLA Katrine Conroy made the grant announcements in Trail on Thursday

West Kootenay gleaner’s group gets big funding boost

CBT grant allows project to save more local produce from compost bin

Fruitvale man identified in fatal zipline accident in Thailand

Spencer Donaldson, 25, was from Fruitvale, B.C., the city’s mayor has confirmed

RDCK passes climate change ‘call to arms’

Director says the statement will help guide policy

Facing high regulatory barriers, Kootenay cannabis producers gather for support

Symposium on barriers facing legalization attended by hundreds

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read