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

Bounty on northern pike

$10 a head reward for northern pike caught in Columbia, Kootenay and Pend d’ Oreille Rivers.

Five people facing charges after Castlegar drug bust

A Castlegar man is facing drug trafficking charges following a drug bust in Castlegar July 4.

Updated: Coroner investigating death of Trail man

A complicated recovery was required for a man who died in a fall above the Trail hospital

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

Commercial huckleberry pickers put on notice

Fines for large-scale picking in place under B.C. Land Act; public urged to report offenders to RAPP

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Activists protest outside Kinder Morgan terminal in kayaks, canoes

Tsleil-Waututh elder Ta’ah Amy George led the water ceremony from a traditional Coast Salish canoe

Canadian soccer fans brace for World Cup final between France, Croatia

First ever final for the Croatians, while it’s France’s third, going into match as betting favourite

Most Read