Craig v Slater defamation trial to be judge-alone

Slipping beneath my radar yesterday was this news that the Colin Craig v Cameron Slater defamation case would be a judge-alone trial.

NZ City: No jury in Craig, Slater defamation case

A defamation claim by former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater won’t be heard before a jury.

Mr Craig is suing Slater and co-publisher Social Media Consultants Ltd over 18 statements made on radio, television and on the blog about Mr Craig’s relationship with his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig for two statements made in a press conference and booklet alleging he and the Whale Oil blog were involved in a campaign to force his resignation from the Conservative Party.

A jury had already been summoned for the trial, which is scheduled to begin on May 8, but Justice Christopher Toogood on Tuesday ordered the case be heard by a judge alone.

Slater had sought a jury hearing, while Mr Craig wanted judge-alone.

In his judgment, Justice Toogood said Mr Craig believed the question trail to assist the jury decide the issues could run as long as 100 pages and “the time, effort and expertise required to follow it should not reasonably be required of a jury”.

But Slater’s barrister Brian Henry said the case was not nearly as complex given the direction on legal matters was not controversial and the facts fell within a narrow compass.

Justice Toogood disagreed.

“Arising out of the allegations, 50 possibly defamatory meanings are asserted,” he said.

“The factual background to each of the publications is extensive.”

He said it would be unreasonable for a jury to work through the complex legal background of the case and ordered it be heard by a judge alone.

This is of particular interest because the decision was released on the same day that Katz J released her judgment in Jordan Williams v Craig that ruled that the jury award of damages was excessive and would amount to a miscarriage of justice. Katz J outlined a number of issues that the jury had had problems with or ignored despite her summing up alerting the jury to them.

Craig has said that he won’t choose to allow Katz J to decide on damages, so the only options for Williams appears to be to walk away from the case, to appeal, or to go to a new trial.

If it goes to a new trial then Craig may apply for judge-alone there too. Given the problems with the jury in the first trial, and the decision to order judge-alone in Craig v Slater, there may not be a jury second time round.

Williams will need to weight these things up when deciding what to do from here.

Craig’s and Slater’s legal teams are likely to be reassessing their approach to their cases now.

The jury in the defamation case Hagamans v Andrew Little had problems deciding on complex legal questions a week ago, resulting in a hung verdict. That case may also go to a second trial.

In that case the judge referred to the difficulties with dealing with the overlapping responsibilities of judge (on law) and jury (on facts) over deciding on whether qualified privilege could apply (judge’s decision) and whether there were sufficient grounds (ill will will or unfair advantage) for qualified privilege to be removed as a defence.

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  1. Loki

     /  April 14, 2017

    Good news for Slater.
    Even a few hours sat looking at him sweating and breathing through his mouth would make any jury incapable of leaning towards finding for him.

  2. Tipene

     /  April 14, 2017

    “Good news for Slater”:

    Yes, that’s like saying the meteor that was due to land into your front yard at 11 am won’t arrive until 11.30am.

    Now, you can use that extra 30 minutes to get away from your yard, but the meteor is 110 km in circumference, is falling at terminal velocity, and the fatal fallout radius is 10 times the circumference.

    Good luck with that 🙂

    • It’s impossible to know what the merits of the Craig v Slater case will be until it has been heard in court. Things now seem a bit tougher for Slater. But his legal team will have learnt from the recent rulings so may be able to improve their case. As can Craig, potentially.

  3. Blazer

     /  April 14, 2017

    very bad news for the…surrender monkey.

  4. lurcher1948

     /  April 14, 2017

    Slater is a [deleted], this [deleted] abused my wife once on line, but we are bigger than this sad person, at least as pensioners we don’t need to grovel for money like whale [deleted]

    • Tipene

       /  April 14, 2017

      Slater’s brave behind a keyboard, and a pussy in person – take it from someone who knows.

      • That could apply to quite a few people who try to sound tough online.

        • Tipene

           /  April 14, 2017

          Yes indeed – John “my bow is tensed, and quiver is full” Stringer comes to mind…………Robin Hood he wasn’t 🙂

        • Gezza

           /  April 14, 2017

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 14, 2017

            What do you mean, he’s a pussy ?

            Those are fighting words where I come from !!! (sharpens claws)

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 14, 2017

              He may be a deleted and a deleted, but he’s not a pussy.

              For goodness sake, don’t tell Trump that he is.He’ll be on the next plane downunder.

            • Tipene

               /  April 14, 2017

              @kittycatkin: Just because someone may fight as if they have nothing to lose, doesn’t mean they don’t.

              IN MMA, (cage fighting) there is an illegal move known as “fish-hooking”.

              Usually done from behind a fighter during a grapple, it’s a cowardly move used by an opponent when they realise they are out-gunned, and involves the quick insertion of fingers into the eyes, nose, or mouth, followed by a centrifugal “rip” in opposite directions.

              The goal is to incapacitate the fighter so that they can’t continue, even if it means being disqualified if the “fish-hooker” gets caught – the goal for the fish-hooker is to do whatever it takes to avoid taking a very public beating for the world to see.

              Slater’s a “fish-hooker” – which makes him a pussy.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 15, 2017

              I had never heard of cage fighting/MMA until recently-it sounds horrible.Even tomcats don’t do that sort of thing. I’d call Slater a wasp, stings meanly and takes off.

    • lurcher1948

       /  April 14, 2017

      mr [deleted] is busy saving slater

    • Conspiratoor

       /  April 14, 2017

      Let’s be honest lurch, if your missus is cut from the same cloth as you …well let’s just say the host of this blog is an uncommonly tolerant fellow. Your colourful epithets would be cannon fodder on most blogs …including slater’s

  5. Bill Brown

     /  April 15, 2017

    Predicting here – Slater has a bomb for Craig. Reason I say is he’s got to much to lose. He’s in court with the pizza guy and the scientist

    To much to lose. BRIAN Henry is no mug either

    • Slater may have a bomb for Craig but that may not help in what has happened in the past, which the defamation actions are about.

      Slater has a history of claiming more bombs than he delivers.

      Henry is no mug as a lawyer, and he has also managed to focus Slater away from hole digging futilities and on things he stands a chance of succeeding on.

      But going judge-alone and with the recent developments in Williams v Craig (a bombshell judgment) increase the challenges.