Little gets off defamation – sort of

 

There jury has returned a muddly verdict in the defamation case the Hagamans took against Andre Little.

Graeme Edgeler was first off the Twitter blocks with the verdicts:

Jury unanimous that Little did not defame Mrs Hagaman.

That doesn’t surprise me, Lani Hagaman wasn’t named so I presume tried to prove defamation be association. I suspect she may have involved herself because of the risk that Earl might die before the trial.

Agree he defamed Mr H. at least once.

That’s no surprise either.

But no agreement on whether he has a defence.

The jury was hung on a defence of qualified privilege.

This also isn’t very surprising, given the political element. It would only take a few jurors to have a political slant that could affect their take on the legals aspects.

In respect of other causes of action, jury deadlocked. So no order of damages as yet. Could be a new trial.

A new trial wouldn’t be good for Little in election year, but with Earl Hagaman’s poor health that seems unlikely.

Retrial limited to questions jury couldn’t agree. Still possibility of settlement, esp. as Mrs H lost, and will be liable for some costs.

I don’t know how costs could be split.

So some relief for Little, but he doesn’t come out of it unscathed politically.

Edgeler has tweeted ” I predict they now settle”. That would be wise.

Stuff: Labour leader Andrew Little cleared of defamation against Lani Hagaman, new trial possible over Earl Hagaman comments

Labour leader Andrew Little has been cleared of defaming Lani Hagaman, but could yet face another trial after the jury could not reach a majority decision on most of his comments about Earl Hagaman.

After more than 13 hours of deliberations across two days, the nine men and three women of the jury found by a majority verdict that Little had not defamed Lani Hagaman in any of the six statements he made.

However, it could not reach a majority decision for Earl Hagaman in four of Little’s six statements on whether the comments were defamatory.

For one statement, the jury agreed by majority that it was defamatory, but could not reach a decision of whether qualified privilege applied. In another statement, it ruled the words were not defamatory.

In a media standup Little said:

The disappointment is we spent six days in the High Court and lot as lot has changed. I certainly stand by the efforts I made to resolve this issue without having to go to court.

“Would you say what you said again?”

There are some other statements that I made in some of the interviews that have been the subject of non-findings that the subject of litigation so I don’t want to go heavily into that.

I understand my job, I understand that there are always risks in my job, and people will feel caught up in a way that they don’t like in my job, and I’m not so schmuckish that I’m not prepared to acknowledge sometimes people do get hurt by things that are said, even though I don’t think they’re defamatory…

The jury ruled that one of Little’s statements was defamatory, one was not defamatory and could not reach a majority verdict on another four.

  …and even though I think I make comments in good faith and in the discharge of my moral obligations.

When I hurt people, which I never intended to do, I’m happy to take responsibility and try and make amends, and I tried to do that on this occasion, but it didn’t work.

“Have you had any advice from your lawyer as to when another trial if there were one would be able to be held?”

No I haven’t had any advice on that. This took seven months to get set down on a fast track, but there’d be other issues to resolve so I don’t know and I haven’t asked.

“Now this process has for all intents and purposes is over except for the possibility of a new case do you have a message or anything to say to Earl and Lani Hagaman personally about this process?”

I’ve given them my message, I’ve been trying to since the end of last year to acknowledge that words I used have caused them hurt, I know that, which is why I was prepared to apologise and did apologise both publicly and in court last week.

“Do you stand by those apologies today?”

Yes.

UPDATE: Graeme Edgeler has clarified his tweets at Kiwiblog:

Apologies for the misleading tweet.

The jury decision was by majority.

One of the problems with editing a tweet for brevity on a phone outside a courtroom.

There were six causes of action: Little’s initial statement, and then five over statements over the following days (eg media comment and answers to questions). The Hagamans asserted that each of these six statements defamed both Mr Hagaman and Mrs Hagaman.

The jury, by majority (which means 1, 2, or 3 jurors disagreed) found that none of the statements defamed Mrs Hagaman.

They found in respect one of the statements, that Little had not defamed Mr Hagaman.

In respect of one, they found that Little had defamed Mr Hagaman, but could not agree whether he had a defence of qualified privilege.

In respect of the other four statments, they could not agree whether they were defamatory.

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65 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  April 10, 2017

    Looking forward to Wayne’s assessment.

    Reply
    • Nelly Smickers

       /  April 10, 2017

      [Deleted – don’t post something as if it’s a quote like that without a link. PG]

      Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  April 10, 2017

    I suggest this is a win for Little,and also that the voters couldn’t care….less.

    Reply
    • It’s a legal win for Little, for now at least. But it will have affected his approach to politics and his confidence, and has been an unhelpful look at least for him in election year.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  April 10, 2017

        I would be surprised if the Hagamans go it again. Given Earls health they may have better things to do. I personally hope they try again and bury Andy. Like you say his confidence and support will slip away, especially with a second trial.

        Reply
    • Gezza

       /  April 10, 2017

      Hope they have Katie trying to explain it on 1Ewes.

      Reply
  3. Tipene

     /  April 10, 2017

    Another appalling decision in a trial-by-jury Defamation case.

    Defamation hearings should be exclusively Judge-alone, because they understand the complexities and context of the Tort, and we don’t.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2017

      appalling,because you don’t agree with it!

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  April 10, 2017

      And if it had been a Judge-alone situation here with the same decisions what would you have said?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 10, 2017

        It’s a difficult one-a jury is supposed to be ordinary people judging a situation as it seems to ordinary people, but this is not a straight-forward did the defendant bash the plaintiff over the head and, if so, was it justified.

        I’m glad that I wasn’t on the jury-I think. :-/

        Reply
  4. lurcher1948

     /  April 10, 2017

    Good one ANDY trying to cut down on corruption under national,beware BILLY rich pricks DONT RUN NEW ZEALAND…just saying

    Reply
  5. Too many Bush Lawyers in the Jury and a Judge incapable of summing up the legal issues effectively. Decision regardless should go to Supreme Court to define “qualified privilege” for MPs to reaffirm the principle that if the statement is made outside the House, it is fair game for defamation. I blame Winston for the problem and know that Little accepts culpability regardless. Our next PM? What about WW3?

    Reply
    • Tipene

       /  April 10, 2017

      @bjmarsh1: “Too many Bush Lawyers in the Jury and a Judge incapable of summing up the legal issues effectively”. On the money, son.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2017

      meaningless assumptions there Col,you should know better.Often verdicts do not match our own expectations.

      Reply
    • duperez

       /  April 10, 2017

      “Too many Bush Lawyers in the Jury and a Judge incapable of summing up the legal issues effectively”? Because you don’t like the decisions, because you wanted Little hung drawn and quartered? Because you were there to see and hear all that was presented?

      Reply
      • You can believe what you like Dupey, actually I wanted a non-political legally sound decision that draw the line on what politicians can say outside the House and still be protected. Me, I reckon they should be liable personally for everything they say wherever, like the rest of us. The furphy about restricting freedom of speech ignores the need for people to meet the obligations that come with the exercise of freedom of speech in our country!

        Reply
        • Yes, politicians have a responsibility to not make serious false accusations against people.

          This decision does nothing to clarify what qualified privilege is legally allowable for a Leader of the Opposition. I’m sure Little will take more care (or he will be slammed politically) but it leaves uncertainty.

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  April 10, 2017

            Politicians have a responsibility to not make serious false accusations against people? And those who are not politcians?

            https://www.nbr.co.nz/article/labour-failed-declare-150000-liu-police-should-investigate-158088

            Reply
            • Of course non-politicians do too. But as politicians have special protections of privilege they have a responsibility to not abuse that privilege.

          • Blazer

             /  April 10, 2017

            ponder this ..former P.M said ‘John Key has cast doubt on Treasury’s long-term economic predictions, saying “I’m telling you it’s a load of nonsense, because they can’t get predictions in 44 days right, let alone in 44 years.”….this sounds to me like he has defamed a respected ,long standing institution of NZ governance.His basic contention is…’Treasury serves no useful ..purpose’.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  April 10, 2017

              Ethically, I think that’s worse. It’s extraordinarily difficult for public servants or their Departmental Head to defend themselves from a slur like that from a Minister or the Prime Minister.

      • Tipene

         /  April 10, 2017

        @duperez: Because laymen (or women) are not qualified to distinguish the complexities of the Tort – Judges are. End of.

        Reply
    • Gezza

       /  April 10, 2017

      What about WW3?

      I’m against it.

      Reply
  6. Reply
    • Brown

       /  April 10, 2017

      Well he should learn to keep his stupid gob shut then.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 10, 2017

        I agree-it was asking for trouble, and he looked very arrogant when he refused to withdraw the allegations and apologise.The apology seemed a very grudging one.

        Reply
  7. Gezza

     /  April 10, 2017

    “- Earlier, the Herald reported Little was guilty of defamation on one occasion. This has now been corrected and clarified in this story.”

    Granny got her knickers in a twist. Good move.

    Reply
  8. duperez

     /  April 10, 2017

    I have posted twice about the case so I should state a conflict of interest.

    I wanted Little to get off. Get off so that my quota of physical exercise for April could be filled by the backlash. You see, the leaping around and exertion evading toys being thrown out of cots is great for one’s well-being. Actually May’s lot may be satisfied too.

    Reply
  9. Brown

     /  April 10, 2017

    I am of a view the qualified privilege factor was the issue that saw him largely get off. This will open the door for stupid people in politics to say stupid things with near impunity. A very poor development and no thanks to the judge.

    Reply
    • Brown, precisely. And for Blazer et al, I actually am more considerate of the man who is nearly dead and who was impugned by a Politician. No wonder they are deservedly regarded with contempt by most thinking Kiwis. Look the stats up yourself.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  April 10, 2017

        he could have accepted the apology Col.What use is a couple of mill….to a ..dead..man?

        Reply
        • That will make an appropriate epitaph for you Blazer. Have you ever had a positive thing to say about people or are you a serial detractor? One who uses “just saying” as an apology?

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  April 10, 2017

            Well Col,you seem to be making a number of generalisations and assumptions these days.I consider myself a realist’ with an open mind…..believe it..or not.

            Reply
            • patupaiarehe

               /  April 10, 2017

              Well Blazer, you seem to be trying to wind the Colonel up. Show a little respect for your elders, please. We have sorted the assumption he made about me recently, and I don’t hold it against him.

    • Gezza

       /  April 10, 2017

      Best to wait a couple of days for the legal pundits to pick the eyes out of it.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 10, 2017

      I agree. The judge’s summing up,left the door wide open for this result.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  April 10, 2017

      you were arguing that the defence could not rely on qualified privelege….the other day,lets face it…you have NFI.

      Reply
  10. Blazer

     /  April 10, 2017

    some very disappointed wags here…blame the …jury….now blame the …judge….how about,the boogie!

    Reply
    • Anonymous Coward

       /  April 10, 2017

      Don’t blame it on the boogie.

      People clearly can’t put political allegiances aside and look clearly at the facts as they were.
      In fact, for all the bluster here, there hasn’t been a discussion about what defamation is, what he said, and wether that crosses a threshold. Just bitching about a guy who leads a party they don’t like, or a dude in a toupee that they don’t like. Now it’s the judge and the jury.

      Reply
  11. theAbout WW3? Well I am against it regardless. We can’t even get our shit together here in NZ. What chance a global contest? Lets all migrate to Antartica and wait for the ice to melt and the tropical forests grow there. Or is it possible to amalgamate the DNA of a human with that of a cockroach-the ultimate survivor?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 10, 2017

      Any cockroach who saunters through the door of this house will not be a survivor for very long once I’ve seen it.

      Reply
  12. An interesting comment from Nick R at Kiwiblog (I think he’s a lawyer):

    “This is common law qualified privilege, and it is far from clear that the Judge was correct to allow it in this case. But whether Mr Hagaman appeals that is another question”

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2017/04/little_wins.html#comment-1908417

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 10, 2017

      That was my impression also. It seems to have been a stretch beyond precedent.

      Reply
  13. Zedd

     /  April 10, 2017

    good job.. now Mr Little can focus on, ‘the business at hand’.. 23/9 🙂

    Reply
  14. Blazer

     /  April 10, 2017

    not forgetting the original background….’On Niue, an island under the government of New Zealand until 1974, there is one hotel. In 2014 it was in poor repair and no longer making money. The Niuean government was considering what could be done. Back in New Zealand where there are many hotels it was election time.

    Two days before polling Earl Hagaman, concerned about the spectre of Kim Dotcom, donated $100,000 to the National Party. Not long after his donation, the organisation he founded, Scenic Hotel Group, won a contract to manage Niue’s hotel in a process overseen by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And not long after that, the New Zealand government made a grant of $7.5 million to refurbish the hotel now known as the Scenic Matavai.’….all done in ..the best possible ..taste…naturellement.

    Reply
    • patupaiarehe

       /  April 10, 2017

      If it waddles like a duck, & quacks like a duck….
      Andy should have known better though, and chosen his words more carefully. Stating that “In my opinion, this matter appears to be dodgy, and warrants further investigation.” wouldn’t have landed him in court.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  April 10, 2017

        Best said in the House as well.

        Reply
        • patupaiarehe

           /  April 10, 2017

          Best said anywhere G. If you state an opinion, it is just that. Why do you think I’m so fond of, ‘IMHO’??? An opinion can always be challenged, & changed, but if you state something as a fact, well, you might end up in court…

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  April 10, 2017

            It’s just that I think throughout his adventures in this matter, there was probably never any doubt that he was stating his opinion. The absence of any factual evidence of impropriety being produced at the time lent itself to that inference. But you are correct in my view in your suggestion that he should in future say as little as possible beyond the sort of thing you suggest. Winston has mastered this art.

            Reply
            • patupaiarehe

               /  April 10, 2017

              Touche’ G.

              Winston has mastered this art.

              Which is why I’m so fond of him… 😀

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