Little left to sweat over weekend

The judge summed up in the defamation trial this morning and the jury retired to consider the fate of Andrew Little.

Late this afternoon the jury were excused for the weekend and will return on Monday to continue. It will be an anxious weekend for Little.

The judge said that Little was able to claim qualified privilege as Leader of the Opposition so the Hagamans had to prove that what Little said was bad enough to strip away that protection if Little had lowered their reputation in the eyes of right-thinking people”, on the balance of probabilities (a lower hurdle than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ of criminal trials).

ODT (NZME): Little to wait for trial verdict

Labour leader Andrew Little will spend the weekend in limbo on the verdict of his defamation trial – the jury was still deliberating and will meet again on Monday to continue.

After a five day trial, the jury was sent out on Friday morning to decide whether Little had defamed hoteliers Earl and Lani Hagaman for comments he made about a $100,000 donation to the National Party a month before their Scenic Hotel Group secured a management contract over a hotel in Niue.

The jurors returned to the courtroom twice to ask questions during about five hours of deliberations.

In summing up…

… Justice Karen Clark told the jury to put aside any sympathies they might feel for any of those concerned or any political views they might have.

She said if the jury decided damages were required, they should assess what was “fair and reasonable” for both the Hagamans and Little but did not need to consider what was affordable for Little.

She said they should not try to compare the case with other damages awards in defamation cases.

Earlier from Stuff:

The onus was on the Hagamans to prove that Little’s comments had the meaning they claimed and that they were defamatory.

However, the Hagamans were only required to prove their case on the balance of probabilities, not beyond reasonable doubt as in a criminal case.

The “crucial first step” to identify the meanings of Little’s words, as ordinary, reasonable person would understand them.

If they agreed with the Hagamans’ interpretation of the phrases, they then had to decide whether they were defamatory and had lowered their reputation in the eyes of right-thinking people.

Lani Hagaman had not been named by Little in any of his comments so…

… the jury had to decide whether an ordinary, fair-minded reader would identify her as being criticised.

Earl Hagaman and their company Scenic Circle were named.

On qualified privilege:

Clark said she had ruled that Little’s comments were protected by qualified privilege as he had a duty, “whether legal or social or moral”, to comment.

However, that defence could be “defeated or effectively negated” if the jury found his comments were predominantly motivated by ill will targeted directly at the Hagamans, or if he had taken improper advantage of his privilege.

On damages…

…Clark said they were about vindicating the plaintiff to the public and providing some compensation for wrongdoing.

Defamation cases like this were relatively rare in New Zealand, and had to be considered on the specific facts. Damages awarded in other trials provided “no reliable guideline or benchmark” to the jury, she said.

Instead, jurors had to use common sense and good judgement when setting a figure, ensuring it was fair and appropriate.

Exemplary, or punitive, damages could only be awarded if Little had acted “in flagrant disregard” to the rights of the Hagamans.

It was important that the jury “not get carried away” in terms of any sum, while they should avoid “doubling up” with general damages and exemplary damages.

She encouraged the jury to reach a unanimous verdict but in some circumstances a majority verdict would suffice if at least 9 jurors agreed.


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  1. Gezza

     /  April 7, 2017

    Be interesting to see if the verdict is a unanimous or majority one. I wonder what the jury’s questions were?

    • Nelly Smickers

       /  April 7, 2017

      Do you honestly believe, that a jury made up of *Angry Andy’s peers*, are going to find him guilty as charged and award a couple of *American billionaires* with a red cent ❓

      Tell ’em they’re dreamin’……. XD

      • Gezza

         /  April 7, 2017

        Well, to be honest, I’m kind of hoping so – because, while I don’t mind being bested in the betting department by an idiot savant because they’re gifted with insights – I don’t really look foward to *someone else* doing a little victory dance on my head.

      • Pete Kane

         /  April 8, 2017

        Nel, Mrs Hagman No 4 or 5? is a Kiwi is she not?

        • Nelly Smickers

           /  April 8, 2017

          That *could* be right PK, I lost count……but you know what they say about facts and good stories XD

  2. Zedd

     /  April 8, 2017

    I was wondering if Mr H gets his hair done at the same place as Mr T 😀 😀

    OR is he Andy W’s long lost bro’ ? 😀

    • Sadly the poor fellow will be having his coiffure done post-mortem soon, death is none the easier, no matter your money. I have very much sympathy fir him, as I know this will be consuming him, and that’s tragic when you’re on your last legs.

      • Blazer

         /  April 8, 2017

        that almost….brings..tears to my…eyes…

        • Well, knowing the stress court action takes on one, I do feel very sorry for Hagamans, and it’s about time Little was made to see that you can’t go about slandering people willy nilly. It disgusts me.

          • Blazer

             /  April 8, 2017

            still an allegation at this time,and one must always remember,innocent until proven…guilty.

  3. Blazer

     /  April 8, 2017

    so much for an open and shut case,with the verdict late ..Friday.

  4. Corky

     /  April 8, 2017

    You’ve stated before this my not be the straight forward case many believe it to be. You may be right for once, Blazer. You may yet earn that gold star you coveted at school but never received after four years in the 5th form.

    • Blazer

       /  April 8, 2017

      well I’m sure you’re proud of the Certificate you recieved at school for being…’sensible…in the library’.

    • You two sound like you’re still at primary school.

      • Gezza

         /  April 8, 2017

        At least they don’t have to put up with Malcolm Milksop always grabbing the drum & the tractor at Pukekura Kindy like Brown & me did!

      • Bill Brown

         /  April 9, 2017

        And that’s being generous

  5. Gezza

     /  April 10, 2017

    Might as well repeat this here. Obviously a tricky case.

    The jury in Labour leader Andrew Little’s defamation trial has indicated it cannot reach a unanimous verdict – but will continue attempts to reach a majority decision.

    After more than 12 hours of discussions across Friday and Monday, the jury foreperson said the 12 members could not reach agreement on the first question of a four-step process in whether Little defamed Scenic Hotel Group founder Earl Hagaman or his wife Lani.

    However, the foreperson said the jury believed it could reach a majority verdict – where at least nine people agree – for some of the allegedly defamatory statements, as is allowed in civil cases.

    Justice Karen Clark instructed the jury to carry deliberating on the instances where they could reach a majority verdict until such a point as they were no longer able to agree by a majority.

  6. Blazer

     /  April 10, 2017

    the qualified privelege question still to be answered on the one guilty finding.Another trial ?….good luck with that….Earl.