Williams v Craig appeal

The appeal in the Jordan Williams v Colin Craig defamation case started today.

RNZ: Colin Craig defamation case back in court

In September last year a jury in the High Court at Auckland found Mr Craig had defamed Mr Williams and awarded Mr Williams damages of $1.27 million.

However earlier this year the court ruled that amount was unreasonably high, constituting a miscarriage of justice.

The highest previous defamation award was $825,000 granted to the Auckland accountant Michael Stiassny in 2008.

In her review of the case in April Justice Katz said the damages awarded were well outside any reasonable range by a significant margin.

So it has gone to appeal.

Jordan Williams’ lawyer, Peter McKnight told the Court of Appeal today that Justice Katz had not misdirected the jury and even if she did, it was not on a level requiring a retrial, as sought by Mr Craig.

“There was a very clear determination by the jury as to liability. It is suggested it would be a serious injustice to Mr Williams if he lost the advantages of those findings,” Mr McKnight said.

Justice Harrison questioned why the case had come before a jury in the first place.

“It should have been judge alone from the outset then we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

He also raised what should happen next if the Court of Appeal decides Justice Katz was correct to set aside the damages awarded against Colin Craig.

“Enough judicial resources have been wasted on it already and it would be most unfortunate to have to go through another trial.”

“What we want to know is do we have jurisdiction to order she has [the power] to settle all outstanding issues.”

A lot of time and court resources have gone into what is largely a political spat.

Stuff:  Jury must have ignored judge’s defamation case directions, court told

 

Williams’ lawyer, Peter McKnight, suggested the Court of Appeal could assess the damages, or another High Court jury could be asked to do so, using the first jury’s findings of facts, and hearing evidence only from Williams and Craig. Craig objected to having the trial judge set damages.

At the appeal hearing, one of the judges, Justice Rhys Harrison, said the court recognised the integrity of the jury’s verdict on Craig’s liability, and its provisional view was that Williams was entitled to that verdict unless the court was persuaded Justice Katz had made a wrong legal ruling on one of Craig’s potential defences.

Not surprisingly Williams wants it over as soon as possible, retaining the jury verdict and having damages set. Id that happens they are going to be less but could still be substantial.

Craig’s lawyer, Stephen Mills, QC, thought the case should be started again. The first jury’s decisions looked as if they had not followed the judge’s directions.

Mills said that, after the jury finished its work at the High Court in Auckland in 2016, Justice Sarah Katz had commented that the jury must have hated Craig to have decided as it did.

Mills said the judge had misdirected the jury about a possible defence, but he also agreed that it appeared the jury did not follow the judge’s directions in any event.

And Craig wants a new trial, giving him a second shot at winning, and at worst having the damages award reduce.

The appeal will continue tomorrow.

6 Comments

  1. Tipene

     /  November 21, 2017

    Katz’s transcript commentary on the issue of “sexual harassment”:

    J Katz in CIV-2015-404-1845 [2016] NZHC 2496 (19/10/2016):

    “Mr Williams then contacted Brian Dobbs, the Conservative Party Board Chairman, and told him (amongst other things) that Mr Craig had been sending sexually explicit texts (“sexts”) to Ms MacGregor and, in particular, one that referred to lying between her naked legs. This was not true, as there is no evidence (from Mr Craig, Ms MacGregor, or the documents produced in evidence) that such a text ever existed. Mr Williams acknowledged at trial that he had never seen such a text. Whether Mr Williams genuinely, but mistakenly, believed that such a text existed, or was deliberately untruthful, was in dispute at trial. For present purposes, I simply note that there is no evidence that Mr Craig ever sent the alleged text, or any other sexually explicit text, or indeed any letters or cards containing sexually explicit material. Nor, apart from a relatively minor and fleeting incident on election eve 2011, is there any evidence to suggest that there was ever any physical contact between Mr Craig and Ms MacGregor that was overtly sexual in nature (29)”.

    In other words – it didn’t happen.

    And if it didn’t happen – then everything else that flowed within the narrative attack against Crag was either misdirected, or outright malicious in its intent.

    If Katz J did make the “the jury must have hated Craig to come up with the verdict they did” then her Honour would have been correct, in my opinion at least.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  November 21, 2017

    The whole thing has become very tediouzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • Tipene

       /  November 21, 2017

      Yes, especially for anyone on the wrong side of a false allegation.

      We can see what is happening in Hollywood, where just an allegation of sexual harassment (no proof or evidence needed) will shatter a persons career, income, reputation, and community standing.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  November 21, 2017

        The Craig thing has been going on far too long, it’s become musical lawsuits.It really has become a bore, alas.

        I agree about the allegations with no evidence; the young woman who was allegedly raped by Harvey Weinstein and then invited him into her flat again and was raped again by him lacks credibility. I once had to fight off an attempted rape by someone whom I had known for years-he was drunk and it was out of character but still hideous-and I wasn’t fool enough to invite him into my flat again.

        My mother knew a headmaster who jumped into a swimming pool to rescue a drowning child. The ‘little bitch’ (as mother called her) then accused him of groping her-it’s qute possible that he lifted her out with a hand between her legs in a totally innocent way.If someone’s drowning, you hoist them out of the water and don’t worry about where your hands go, I would think-you just grab them. It caused a lot of heartbreak and trouble-he was cleared of any wrong-doing, but his teaching career was over and the profession lost a great headmaster.

        A man we knew picked up two young girl hitchhikers who tried to blackmail him by saying that they’d tell the police that he’d done this & that if he didn’t give them money. As he happened to know where the police station was in the town they were approaching, he drove up to it, stopped the car and invited them to go in-they were last seen heading off in the other direction.

        • Tipene

           /  November 21, 2017

          You make a good point about allegation credibility, Kitty.

          I say this because there isn’t a woman (or man) I have spoken to that believes that sexual harassment actually occurred in this case, which makes Harrison J’s comment today, namely “It should have been judge alone from the outset then we wouldn’t be in this mess” ring very, very loudly.

          Seems to me that the 2016 Williams v Craig jury just wanted to get home for the weekend, so kicked Craig in the slats so as to be able to catch the last train home.

          I have spoken to people who have served on juries, and they tell similar and compelling stories about jury member bias prior to revealed facts, intimidation of other jurors to vote a certain way so that everyone else can get back to work, and sod the consequences against the accused.

          I would NEVER trust a jury of my peers as a result of hearing these insider reports.

  3. patupaiarehe

     /  November 21, 2017

    Isn’t the whole point of a jury trial supposed to be ‘Trial by one’s peers?’. So why should any ruling by a jury be overturned on the basis that they “Did not follow the judge’s directions” ??? Just saying…