Craig v Slater – reserved decision

As expected, after closing addresses the judge has reserved his decision in the defamation case between Colin Craig and Cameron Slater. Don’t be surprised if it’s not Spring before a decision comes out.

For Slater:

RNZ: Closing addresses in Slater vs Craig trial

In his closing address in the High Court in Auckland, Mr Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, said Mr Craig displayed unacceptable behaviour towards Ms MacGregor.

Mr Henry said Ms MacGregor had been put in a difficult position, giving evidence about very personal matters and being cross-examined by Mr Craig, who he described as her “nemesis”.

“We have a written plan, written in the wee hours of the 18th of September, 2015, that he was going to deliberately destroy her reputation by alleging in a failed attempted blackmail.”

He said Ms MacGregor also made an allegation that Mr Craig stopped paying her in an effort to force her into having sex.

“Put simply, Sir, for her, this is a total disaster. She settled it – confidential – gone. And if it had stayed that way, she would have her life and the plaintiff [Mr Craig] would actually have his life.”

But information was leaked and Mr Slater wrote about their relationship, he said.

Mr Henry said Mr Slater was defending the defamation case based on defences of truth, honest opinion and qualified privilege as a journalist writing about a matter in the public interest.

He said the story was then picked up by mainstream media and Mr Craig chose to hold news conferences, and to then stand down from the Conservative Party with little explanation.

“The evidence is clear, [Mr Slater’s] publications have not caused the damage. It was the plaintiff’s [Mr Craig’s] conduct, his expressly exciting the media by a grand press conference to announce his standing down from the leadership which had the consequences of being able to avoid a [Conservative Party] board meeting where his behaviour with his press secretary was the sole topic on the agenda.”

He said that led to media investigating and publishing information from sources suggesting Mr Craig had acted inappropriately.

Mr Slater had originally sought $16 million in damages but that has now been scaled down to $450,000 plus legal costs.

That’s a major scaling down, but now much more realistic, should Slater succeed.

For Craig:

Mr Craig, who is defending himself, told the court that the case revolved around the true nature of his relationship with Ms MacGregor, the responsibilities of a blogger and the ability of a public figure to, as he put it, “hit back” with a booklet.

“On the evidence, Mr Slater and the Whale Oil blog were reckless in publishing the serious allegations. They often were publishing allegations based on mere rumour or an inference that Mr Slater had himself drawn. They did not take appropriate, or even basic steps to check the veracity of the allegations, such as seeking any comment from myself or Ms MacGregor.”

Mr Craig said Ms MacGregor might now regret their relationship but he said that didn’t amount to sexual harassment.

“While I may have acted inappropriately at times – which is absolutely conceded – or as Ms MacGregor put it, ‘being dodgy’, that does not amount to sexual harassment.

Continued in Judge reserves decision in Craig vs Slater trial

Mr Craig finished closing his case today, in which he alleges Mr Slater was part of a conspiracy to remove him as leader.

One of the defences Mr Slater has claimed is qualified privilege as a journalist.

Mr Craig said privilege was to facilitate public discussion.

Justice Toogood said Mr Slater had nothing to gain by Mr Craig standing down, and asked if Mr Slater’s motivation in writing the posts had any relevance to the case.

Concluded:

A High Court judge has reserved his decision in the defamation case between the former leader of the Conservative Party and the blogger Cameron Slater.

Justice Toogood said it would take him some time to deliver his judgement.

It could be a long wait, especially for Slater and Whale Oil.

Talking of Whale Oil, they have continued to comment on the case despite saying they had been advised not to. ‘Whaleoil Staff’ in  Craig v Slater Day 17 (media roundup) acknowledges possibly Slater’s biggest vulnerability, the alleged ‘second victim’:

As for the “second victim”, I would like to write about this in more detail at some stage. But as we have discovered from media reports, Mr Craig instructed a lawyer to phone Cameron Slater and ask for all the evidence Whaleoil held on the Craig/MacGregor story for a client she was working with that “had Colin Craig as a factor”.

On that basis, Cam Slater had an honest belief that another victim had sought legal help against Mr Craig.  In spite of subsequent calls to Cam Slater from that lawyer, some of which were reported back her client – Mr Craig – Auckland lawyer Madeleine Flannagan never revealed to Cam she was working for Mr Craig.

Mr Craig knew Cam had the wrong end of the stick just a few days later, and years before appearing in Court.  A situation he kept to himself during the discovery process and most of the trial when he dramatically introduced one of Cameron Slater’s own witnesses as a lawyer working for him.  That may seem like awesome strategy and cool made-for-TV court drama, but both Madeleine Flannagan and Colin Craig are expected to face consequences for deliberately subverting proper process to gain advantage over a legal adversary.

Whaleoil feels confident that the case will be decided in its favour, especially since the ‘second victim’ issue became what we view as a Fraud on the Court.

An acknowledgement that incorrectly alleging a second victim was a potential problem for Slater’s defence but a probably slanted view that makes making excuse and claims that that evidence shouldn’t have been considered.

There are various possibilities with the outcome due to there being claims of defamation and counter claims. They include:

  • Finding in favour of Slater
  • Finding in favour of Craig
  • Finding that Slater and Craig defamed each other
  • Finding no defamation

Damages and costs could be substantial against one of them, or they could work both ways and partially or totally cancel each other out, or they could be minimal or zero.

All this legal stuff must be hard for Craig, financially and mentally, but to an extent it is just another step on a very long drawn out campaign to try to redeem himself. That is a very difficult task. And despite his supposed wealth it will be proving very costly even before damages and costs awards come into play.

It will be an anxious time for Slater and Whale Oil, There may not be much reputation riding on it, but financially it could result in a legal windfall, or it could break the blog. They are continually having to raise funds just to keep Whale Oil going so it will be difficult for them if they have to pay any damages or costs, or even if they are not awarded damages or costs.

The rest of us will go on to other things in the meantime, until the decision eventually pops up.

 

16 Comments

  1. Bill Brown

     /  June 2, 2017

    There is NO redemption for Craig. No matter what.

    • The same could be said of Slater.

      • Both doesn’t forces and increasingly irrelevant

      • Bill Brown

         /  June 2, 2017

        Slater is not looking for redemption – in there lays the difference

        • Gezza

           /  June 2, 2017

          Well, if he’s looking for resurrection 👼🏼 I don’t fancy his chances.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 2, 2017

            Lies the difference.

            I wonder if the judge will put the papers in the round file that all offices have and hope that everyone forgets this boring episode.

  2. A new post on this at WO: Craig v Slater final media roundup… for now

    Oddly this leads with the replication of an RNZ report from over a week ago, May 23 – Rachel MacGregor: ‘I lost a lot of faith in Colin’

    This seems to be an attempt to flavour the narrative.

    ‘Whaleoil staff’ says “It has been hard to sit on my hands and not provide some counter-balance.”

    He seems to be finding ways of feeding the troops his own ‘balance’ while saying he is under advice to “sit on my hands”

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  June 2, 2017

      Rachel McGregor was a fool to send gushing texts and generally allow the boundaries to be blurred. The massages were asking for trouble; if he asked, she could have refused by saying that she was no good at it or that it wasn’t a good idea, so no.. If she offered, she was very silly.

      • Tipene

         /  June 2, 2017

        @ Kitty Catkin: MacGregors a massage therapist.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  June 3, 2017

          Even so, she should not have done it. She wasn’t employed as one by CC.

  3. Tipene

     /  June 2, 2017

    The true saving grace of this trial is that was judge-alone. Whatever the outcome, at least it will be an expert outcome, as opposed to the knuckle-dragging jury outcome in Williams v Craig by 12 people who were keen to get an early start to their weekend.

    • Bill Brown

       /  June 2, 2017

      Slater to win and an award of around $250k plus costs

      Thoughts ????

      • Tipene

         /  June 2, 2017

        @Bill Brown:

        Not a chance: Slater published stuff in the public domain that wasn’t true, ergo, that is defamation = end of Slater and his Stockholm crew.

        • Bill Brown

           /  June 2, 2017

          So will Colin Craig sue the Herald to??

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  June 2, 2017

            Not if he has any sense, and surely he has too much sense to even think of it.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  June 2, 2017

          Not as simple as that when the target is a politician.