Williams breached trust and confidentiality agreement

Last week a jury awarded Jordan Williams $1.27 million in his defamation  case against Colin Craig. Williams successfully claimed that Craig had lied about him in a press conference and a booklet that was delivered to most homes around the country.

However in evidence it was alleged that Williams had breached a confidentiality agreement made in mediation between Craig and Rachel MacGregor through the Human Rights Commission.

Yesterday a decision released by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (MacGregor v Craig [2016] NZHRRT 6) detailed the breaches of trust and confidentiality by Williams.

[50] On or about 22 May 2015, approximately three weeks after the 4 May 2015 mediation, Mr Craig was told by a member of the Conservative Party Board (Ms Christine Rankin) there were rumours Mr Craig had paid off Ms MacGregor to cover serious misbehaviour. Ms Rankin added she was in possession of information sent to her by an informant. This information turned out to be a poem taken from a letter Mr Craig had sent to Ms MacGregor on 24 December 2013. That letter was part of the material relied on by Ms MacGregor in support of her sexual harassment complaint. At about the same time as his discussion with Ms Rankin Mr Craig was told attempts were being made to remove him as leader of the Conservative Party.

[51] By 30 May 2015 it appeared to Mr Craig other Board members (including the Chairman, Mr Brian Dobbs) had been given details about the mediation as well as confidential information. On 16 June 2015 Mr Craig received an anonymous text quoting from the 24 December 2013 letter and on 19 June 2015 the Whale Oil blog published extracts from the confidential documents. On the same day Mr Craig felt compelled to stand down as leader of the Conservative Party. 14

[52] By this time Mr Craig was certain the source of the information was Mr Jordan Williams. His suspicions were confirmed when Mr Williams gave evidence to the Tribunal that it was he (Mr Williams) who had provided the information to members of the Board and to Mr Slater of the Whale Oil blog. He explicitly acknowledged he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to disclose the information and indeed had been expressly instructed by her not to disclose the information to anyone. The disclosure was also contrary to an express assurance given by Mr Williams to Mr Bevan that the information relating to Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim and in relation to which Ms MacGregor had, prior to the mediation, confided in Mr Williams would be kept confidential.

So Williams distributed confidential information to members of the Conservative Party and to Cameron Slater at Whale Oil despite being “expressly instructed by her not to disclose the information to anyone”, and despite an express assurance that Williams gave to lawyer Mr Bevan that the information would be kept confidential.

Ms MacGregor and Mr Jordan Williams

[56] Ms MacGregor met Mr Jordan Williams through her work with the Conservative Party. After her resignation she confided in Mr Williams because she knew he was a lawyer and someone who understood politics. She thought he would understand her situation and be able to provide good advice. She showed him the correspondence from Mr Craig but did not give him copies or permission to make copies of any of that correspondence. Mr Williams helped Ms MacGregor to put her claim in chronological order and to prepare a file note which was then sent to Mr Bevan.

[57] Some time later, prior to the mediation, Ms MacGregor and Mr Williams began a romantic relationship. At the time Mr Williams allowed Ms MacGregor to store certain documents, including correspondence between Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig, in the safe at his (Mr Williams’) work place. Mr Williams assured Ms MacGregor only he had access to the safe and that the material would be secure.

[58] At the time Ms MacGregor confided in Mr Williams she was under no obligation of confidentiality to Mr Craig (the mediation had not yet been agreed to and had consequently not taken place) and Mr Craig accepted in evidence she was entitled to speak to whomsoever she wished prior to the mediation confidentiality agreement being signed.

[59] When in November 2014 Ms MacGregor told Mr Bevan she had sought advice and counsel from Mr Williams, Mr Bevan decided to speak to Mr Williams about the importance of confidentiality, believing such discussion justified in the light of Mr Williams’ mention by Nicky Hager in his Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment (Craig Potten Publishing, Nelson, 2014). Mr Bevan contacted Mr Williams by telephone on 26 November 2014. Mr Bevan (inter alia) stressed the importance of Mr Williams keeping confidential the information Ms MacGregor had shared with Mr Williams. Mr Williams told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) was a lawyer holding a practising certificate, but working in-house. He made it clear he was not acting for Ms MacGregor but that he was treating (or would treat) information he obtained from her on the same confidential basis as he would if she were his client. This gave Mr Bevan (and Ms MacGregor) a level of assurance Ms MacGregor would not be compromising her chances of a settlement by confiding in and seeking help from Mr Williams. Mr Williams also told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) had a romantic interest in Ms MacGregor.

[60] In his evidence Mr Williams confirmed Mr Bevan’s account of the November 2014 discussion and that he (Mr Williams) had given Mr Bevan an assurance he would keep the information confidential as if Ms MacGregor were a client. Mr Williams also confirmed to the Tribunal he had subsequently received from Ms MacGregor an email dated 18 June 2015 asking him to return any copies of letters she had received from Mr Craig and asking that he not make any copies as she did not want the letters used against Mr Craig. Mr Williams further told the Tribunal he ignored the email and was the person who took the two photographs of the poems subsequently published on the Whale Oil blog. He took these steps knowing he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to photograph or distribute the documents.

In the defamation  trial Williams attempted to justify his actions, but what the Tribunal says here looks quite bad for Williams.

I think that Craig is justified in being seriously aggrieved by the actions of Williams.

However Craig reacted very poorly, especially in his breaches of the confidentiality agreement and his very public attacks on MacGregor knowing that she was constrained by the confidentiality agreement.

It’s somewhat ironic that as a result of legal actions to date MacGregor has been awarded $128,780 as an innocent victim, compared to Williams being awarded $1.27 million despite being him breaching trust and the confidentiality agreement, and provoking Craig into also breaching the confidentiality agreement, plus making accusations against Williams resulted in the defamation proceedings.

Craig has indicated he may appeal the defamation decision and damages award so it may not be the end of that matter.

But currently Williams is the major winner here so far, despite:

Mr Williams told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) was a lawyer holding a practising certificate, but working in-house. He made it clear he was not acting for Ms MacGregor but that he was treating (or would treat) information he obtained from her on the same confidential basis as he would if she were his client.

Mr Williams also confirmed to the Tribunal he had subsequently received from Ms MacGregor an email dated 18 June 2015 asking him to return any copies of letters she had received from Mr Craig and asking that he not make any copies as she did not want the letters used against Mr Craig. Mr Williams further told the Tribunal he ignored the email and was the person who took the two photographs of the poems subsequently published on the Whale Oil blog. He took these steps knowing he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to photograph or distribute the documents.

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33 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th October 2016

    Yes, Williams is at the bottom of the pack ethically and his association doesn’t do Slater any good either. They both may as well emigrate and try to start again somewhere else where their credibility and trustworthiness isn’t completely stuffed. It’s hard to see the damages award to Williams surviving this untouched.

    Reply
    • duperez

       /  4th October 2016

      Maybe someone in an act of helping Mr Williams reform (his behaviour clearly shows the need), will sign him up, take him on.

      That’s the sort of understanding society we have, you know, second chances, moving past indiscretions with wisdom gained. If he resides in Wellington he’ll find they’re like that there. Even their rugby union has that attitude.

      Reply
    • Pete Kane

       /  4th October 2016

      One can now, understand why Craig’s Council, didn’t take time to blink (all still standing from the decision having been read), before announcing the appeal.

      Reply
  2. This is one of the problems with our justice system. Relevant facts and timelines are with held from the jury forcing them to only consider some of the facts. Judgements are then given on accounts that are filled with errors of omission. Only when the trial is over is everything made clear. Jordan Williams should get nothing for all his devious machinations yet the Crown now allows him to run off with millions. Justice should be accurate and efficient. Our courts are neither. Meanwhile I bet Williams ain’t weeping for McGregor now. I bet he doesn’t even answer her phone calls.

    Reply
  3. Gezza

     /  4th October 2016

    One wonders, in the light of these revelations, and considering who her lawyers are, whether Ms Mac has finished with Mr Williams, in a legal sense.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  4th October 2016

      That thought crossed my mind too, Gezza. However, the economics of the HR Tribunal vs High Court costs, risks and delays look much more favourable.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  4th October 2016

        True, still, I reckon she’s in a good situation to possibly be getting a sizeable chunk of $1.27m.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  4th October 2016

          And I no longer think poor Mrs Craig is quite such the poor, suffering, christian saint I thought she probably was.

          Reply
          • artcroft

             /  4th October 2016

            I can’t see Williams collecting the 1.2 mill anytime soon as Craig will appeal. Once that’s over Williams will probably negotiate with McG over what slice she gets with the result being tied up in a confidentiality agreement, which neither party will break. How that for irony.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  4th October 2016

            You’ve lost me on that one, G. What have I missed?

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  4th October 2016

              From what I’ve read she was partly invoved in making things difficult for at work and in presenting her as incompetent, & unstable. She was employed by their company, I think.

  4. Pete Kane

     /  4th October 2016

    I’ve only really picked up a some of this now. But the snippet I picked last night re who one of McGregor’s Council was, explained a little of how the media thing has played out. Probably my bias, but I have felt William’s has had a pretty soft run from the media. That may change.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th October 2016

      Does your device keep changing Counsel to Council Pete?

      Reply
      • Pete Kane

         /  4th October 2016

        Yep

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  4th October 2016

        I’d love to know who my secret anti-fan is … 😄

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  4th October 2016

          Seems to be an anti-fan of Al, me, Kitty, and patupaiarehe. Downticking just about anything we post on sight. Obsessive little wanker. 😆

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  4th October 2016

            I was also tossing up whether to call him(?) a prick or a wanker in my comment this morning, G. I’m glad we’ve settled on both.

            Reply
            • Klik Bate

               /  4th October 2016

              On the bright side Alan and Gezza, can you imagine what a ‘sad lonely existence’ someone like that must lead? I can see them holed up alone all day in a dank, moldy room somewhere, with the highlight of their day being to down-tick a few comments on a blog.

              I say just give the poor guy a break XD

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  4th October 2016

              Poor little sod. He’s probably been banned everywhere he’s tried to drivel. But I think there is likely more than one. Their pathology would probably be an interesting study and maybe useful to head off more serious problems.

            • Klik Bate

               /  4th October 2016

              I’m missing ‘nurse Nelly’ to be honest. I remember her saying once “she only ever up-ticked comments whether she read them or not” XD

              Can’t blame her if she’s pulled the pin I suppose – she did come in for a fair bit of flak here recently, from a couple of ‘commenters’ in particular! Then I saw when she tried to retaliate, some her responses were removed for whatever reason. I guess there’s only so much shit a girls prepared to take :/

            • Gezza

               /  4th October 2016

              I hardly ever uptick my own comments. And even then, only if I agree with what I’ve said.

  5. Pete Kane

     /  4th October 2016

    I got some too!

    Reply
  6. Pete Kane

     /  4th October 2016

    In terms of your above list, well, doesn’t really help narrow the field, does it?

    Reply
  7. Some people get their kicks off the most childish of things, guys. When they can’t win debate or arguments head-on, they resort to the tactics of the playground.

    Actually I think I’m being unfair to children in drawing the comparison. These people are just plain embarrassments to anyone with a brain.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th October 2016

      Plus, it IS school holidays, and the weather’s not great, so a schoolgirl might be bored.

      Reply
  8. Even though this blog doesn’t draw a high amount of commenters I hugely enjoy both the non-partisan viewpoint of the Editor and Owner, as well as the to and fro amongst the learned commenters. There are always many ways to look at a story or an idea and this blog covers a diverse range of viewpoints from Women, Men, Pakeha and Maori, the ranting and the deranged, the erudite and the learned. I’ve noted many times that most do not fall into traps of echochambers and blind following of propaganda (from all sides). I have learned a considerable amount from forcing myself to consider POVs that I did not initially grant any credence to.

    Well done.

    Reply
    • Conspiratoor

       /  4th October 2016

      How’s the book coming along benno?

      Reply
      • Largely finished. The ending hasn’t taken place in real life yet so I’m waiting for that chapter. Whatever the outcome of the Court I have learned an immense amount about politics, propaganda, the mindset of the average Kiwi versus the Ultra-Left/Ultra-Right, how all 3 of those groups interact online politically, socially and intellectually, what the role of ideologues in society is, what being a villain is, the pros and cons of Internet activism and how entrenched interests are both won and lost against.

        Couldn’t pay for that kind of education. The only price has been coming to terms with the personal costs.

        Thanks for asking Conspiratoor.

        Reply
  9. duperez

     /  4th October 2016

    AW
    Which “Poor little sod” who’s probably been banned everywhere? Williams or Craig?

    Reply
  10. gregpresland

     /  4th October 2016

    Good post Pete. It is strange that Williams should do so much better than MacGregor and I suspect the Judge will be tempted to wind back the judgment award. And unlike a few others I think the defamation case reflects poorly on both of the protagonists.

    Reply

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