Craig v Slater – the biggest losers

Finally after waiting eighteen months for a judgment on their tit for tat defamation trial Colin Craig and and Cameron Slater are both claiming some sort of victory, but the overwhelming response is that they are both losers.

Craig technically won – he succeeded on two claims that Slater defamed him. But:

  • he lost most of his claims
  • there was no award of damages because “the reputational damage which Mr Craig suffered throughout the events traversed at length in the judgment resulted almost entirely from his own actions”
  • “It is true that Mr Craig was guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment of Rachel MacGregor, on multiple occasions”

Technically Slater succeeded in defending most of Craaig’s claims, but he failed on both his claims of defamation, as Craig was found to be “entitled to the defence of qualified privilege in reply to an attack on him by Mr Slater”, so no damages there either (he asked for $8,117,010).

Costs are yet to be decided. Craig represented himself so cannot claim much in the way of costs and disbursements.

Slater lost the case, and Craig won a part of his case, so Slater may have difficulty claiming much if any of what will be substantial legal costs. There seems no chance of him getting all costs, and any he might get will be going to his lawyers, so the dream of a legal fighting fund that was mentioned when Whale Oil eyes lit up when Jordan Williams was awarded over a million dollars (now quashed) is now a financial burden, if not nightmare.

Summary from Courts of New Zealand:

The claimant, Colin Craig, laid 15 separate defamation claims in relation to statements made by Mr Slater
either on his blogsite or in other media.

Mr Craig alleged that he suffered serious damage to his reputation as a consequence of allegedly untrue statements published by the defendants, Mr Cameron Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited (SMCl) (the company which establishes the Whaleoil blog).

Mr Slater made two counterclaims.

The matter was heard by judge-alone over 17 days in May – June 2017, with final submissions not received until September 2018.

In brief, Mr Craig alleged that Mr Slater and Whaleoil caused him serious reputational damage by publishing untrue statements based on information leaked to him by a friend of Ms MacGregor, Mr Jordan Williams, and a Conservative Party board member, Mr John Stringer, about Mr Craig and the Party’s internal problems; electoral funding and the Party’s finances; and a rumoured sexual harassment claim by Ms MacGregor.

Mr Craig sought declarations under s 24 of the Defamation Act 1992 that the defendants are liable to him
in defamation. He also claimed general, aggravated and punitive damages of unspecified amounts and
costs.

Mr Slater counterclaimed, saying he was himself defamed in a booklet entitled Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas which Mr Craig published, allegedly in defence of the attacks he claims Mr Slater and others made upon him, following his resignation in 2015. The booklet was circulated to more than 1.6 million New Zealand homes. Mr Slater claims that the contents of the booklet defamed him by implying, among other things, that he developed or coordinated the strategy to defame and spread lies about Mr Craig and published material on his blog knowing it not to be true.

Mr Slater claimed general damages of $8,117,010 on a proposed basis of $5.00 for each of the 1,623,402 New Zealand homes to which the booklet was delivered.

The result and orders

Mr Craig failed on his principal causes of action against Mr Slater. He did so because the Court found, for reasons set out in full in the judgment, that Mr Craig had been guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment of Ms MacGregor; that he had made a substantial financial settlement with her on confidential terms in exchange for the withdrawal of her claims to the Human Rights Tribunal; and that he had deliberately misled the Conservative Party board about those matters.

The court found other statements and assertions were untrue statements. However, the court held that Mr Slater could rely on the defence of “responsible communication on a matter of public interest” with respect to all but two of these untrue statements and imputations.

This new defence was available to Mr Slater despite his personal animosity towards Mr Craig, because the Court found he was principally motivated to release into the public arena information which he believed to be reliable and which would inform public discussion on a matter of undoubted public interest.

The Court found that to hold that Mr Slater was deprived of the defence of responsible communication on a matter of public interest, merely because of his views about Mr Craig, would be to tilt the balance between freedom of expression on a matter of public interest and protection of reputation too far in favour of the latter. Such a finding would have an unduly chilling effect on political discourse of the kind which the public interest defence is designed to recognise.

HELD: The Judge declared, under s 24 of the Defamation Act 1992, that Mr Slater and SMCl are liable to Mr Craig in defamation for only two untrue statements:. The Court found Mr Slater had no defence for the untrue statements that Mr Craig:
(i) had placed Ms Rachel MacGregor under financial pressure to sleep with him; and
(ii) sexually harassed at least one victim other than Ms MacGregor.

The Judge dismissed the remaining causes of action in defamation, either on grounds that the defence of truth was upheld or on the basis the publications were responsible communications on a matter of public interest.

While this meant Cameron Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited were liable to Colin Craig in defamation for these two statements, the Court ruled he was not entitled to an award of damages because the reputational damage which Mr Craig suffered throughout the events traversed at length in the judgment resulted almost entirely from his own actions.

Mr Slater’s counterclaims

Mr Slater counterclaimed for allegedly defamatory statements made in the booklet.

The Court dismissed Mr Slater’s counterclaims against Mr Craig. It found that while many of the assertions Mr Craig had made about Mr Slater in his booklet Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, were untrue – including the assertion that Mr Slater made up allegations and was a liar – Mr Craig was entitled to the defence of qualified privilege in reply to an attack on him by Mr Slater.

On that basis, Mr Slater’s counterclaim in defamation was dismissed.

From the judgment on costs:

Bearing in mind that each of the parties has both succeeded and failed in the proceeding in varying degrees, and having regard to the complexity and significance of the proceeding, it will be obvious that the determination of costs will require careful consideration by the parties and by the Court.

Costs are reserved for the exchange of memoranda and will be determined on the papers unless the Court directs otherwise.

This could take some time.

Full decision of J Toogood: PDF document icon CSEJ.pdf — PDF document, 1.82 MB, 250 pages

Craig has claimed a win but acknowledges that is limited. He says he is considering an appeal.

Mr ‘explaining is losing’ Slater has done a number of posts on the judgment at Whale Oil claiming some sort of victory and vindication, but it looks like trying to make a silk purse out of a boar’s bum. There has been only a a little bit of congratulations and support in comments, seemingly from a mix of blind supporters and sycophants with perhaps some sock puppets.

David Farrar seems to have obtained an advance copy of the judgment and what looked like a pre-prepared post that appears to be trying to paint lipstick on a pig – Zero damages in Craig vs Slater.

Comments there are overwhelmingly negative towards Craig and to Slater in particular.

There was a brief flurry of response on Twitter, largely critical of the two litigants, and also praising the ‘both losers’ result.

Craig’s reputation was already in tatters, this just reinforces that. The decision puts pressure on his ongoing defamation proceedings versus Jordan Williams – arguing appropriate damages in Williams v Craig, and his counter suit Craig v Williams.

Surely Craig must now drop his defamation claim against Rachel MacGregor.

And any political ambitions must be gone or futile.

Slater comes out of this with his reputation of a political activist and dirty attack blogger largely intact (remember that his attacks were based on information supplied by Jordan Williams in a breach of MacGregor’s privacy and highly questionable for a lawyer). His financial stress remains.

And Slater has another legal headache looming as he awaits a judgment on the Blomfield v Slater defamation case. This is similar in that involved a series of attacks on Matthew Blomfield via Whale Oil, but it is different in that Blomfield didn’t get drawn into a public spat and overreach like Craig. Blomfield just tenaciously pursued Slater through the courts, despite numerous appeals and delays.

Whale Oil has also suffered. Slater’s bold claims of legal success have proven to be like many of his claims, over-optimistic and overblown, so his credibility has taken another hit, at the same time that he continues shedding support due to his ongoing attacks on National.

In five consecutive posts on the decision at WO there have been a total of 56 comments (23 on one post is the most), compared to 85 comments on a single post at Kiwiblog.

 

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37 Comments

  1. This is funny in a sad sort of way:

    https://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2018/10/face-of-the-day-1799/
    Note that that is posted by ‘Whaleoil staff’ and not by Slater.

    A deluded champion. This comes to mind:

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  October 26, 2018

      Jessie Ryder is worried….[use proper names] always gives back…double…(he’ll have to put his cape and …undies..on.)

      Reply
    • Corky

       /  October 26, 2018

      Yes, he was whipped…but, he got in the ring.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  October 26, 2018

        helped in and carried out…55 seconds…some tough guy.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  October 26, 2018

          Would you be game…getting into the ring knowing your only chance of winning would be a ”lucky shot?”

          Reply
  2. artcroft

     /  October 26, 2018

    A sensible decision from the judge.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  October 26, 2018

      Indeed. I haven’t read it in full but I find the concept that there’s a scale of seriousness for sexual harassment intriguing & wonder if it’s the sort of thing there’s a poster showing the various levels and the relevant penalty.

      Also interesting that he starts with the presumption where there’s a power imbalance there’s been sexual harassment by the party with the power. But he knows the full circumstances of the case and I really have switched off from all these characters now – except for wanting to know who they all owe how much to at various points.

      None of these characters looks angelic.

      Reply
      • High Flying Duck

         /  October 26, 2018

        The fact many people seem to think there shouldn’t be a scale is what intrigues me. That leads to people who say suggestive things being lumped by the #Metoo brigade with the Harvey Weinstein types.
        Unwanted innuendo is a big step down from open proposition or writing letters professing feelings. It is another step to shoulder rubs and other unwanted touching and then again to exposing yourself or pulling off the “sleep trick”.
        The judgement is being seen as very thoughtful and precedent setting.
        There is now a presumption that attention from the person with power is unwanted unless there is evidence to the contrary. The judge found Colin’s affections were reciprocated for a time and no harassment existed in that period, but once boundaries were put in place he continued to overstep when it was made clear to him that he should stop.
        Rachel McGregor may not come out looking angelic, but she is by no means a villain in this soap opera.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  October 26, 2018

          Yes – I was only talking half tongue-in-cheek. I watched one young rough diamond tea lady with a screwed up sense of humour (donkey’s years ago now, when we still had them) over a period of time suggestively keep hitting on an emotionally half-witted young guy in Accounts – who most of the younger staff members were pretty cruel to – until one day the poor kid blundered into doing what she asked and touching her boob.

          She’d scored the bullseye. She screamed blue murder & the poor kid was put through the whole (relatively new) sexual harassment process. I think I was the only one who quietly went and saw the head honchess of the 3-person team who officially warned him and noted his file and described what had actually happened here, and over how long he’d been set up for.

          I got a lecture that it made no difference. I’d do it again I think. It was her fault, not his, and not what it seemed. She got a weird kick out of it.

          She’d actually been hitting on me as well, but in my case she was serious & the touching was coming from her. I didn’t mention that because I’d let it go on for too long.

          Reply
          • High Flying Duck

             /  October 26, 2018

            That is the unintended consequence of newfound the new sexual harassment environment. Women can do what they like and it still comes down to express permission, and even then there has to be no prospect of coercion or power imbalance.
            To be fair, the on the other side, women have put up with a hell of a lot of shit over decades from leery men and bosses who think they own their staff, so the pendulum swing was inevitable and necessary.
            Hopefully it will soon settle in a place where workplace banter and relationships are still able to thrive while the predators and perpetrators of harassment are still able to be weeded out.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  October 26, 2018

              True. There were four young tea ladies, and a tea room. One of the others lives in Tawa & I bumped into her in the sports bar of one of the small pubs here not long ago, when newlywed Shane from next door & I went there to watch an all blax rugby game & he got in the shit with his Mrs by staying there till the wee smalls when I left & she texted me late to see when we were coming home).

              Not the brightest bulb in the box but Kimmy the tea girl still looks very fit indeed herself. She was mates with this girl, but she took me aside one day and said “If I were you I’d be very careful with her, Gez. She’s the missus of the Lower Hutt Mongrel Mob President !”

              Which explained the occasional dark glasses and shiner she sometimes turned up for work with.

            • High Flying Duck

               /  October 26, 2018

              Sounds like Gliding On…with an Outrageous Fortune twist.

            • Gezza

               /  October 26, 2018

              I’ve still got a photo of the four of them. It’s a good one too. Both Kim (blonde) and Mands (swarthy and busty) are stunners.

            • Gezza

               /  October 26, 2018

              I was trying to remember before what one of Kim’s hubby’s friends said when Kim went up to the bar to get hubby and her a refill and it came to me outside. I’d never met them before & she’d called me over – and when asked I told them I knew her from work, decades ago, and that she’d worn well, hadn’t changed much, still a hard case.

              Even in front of her husband one rough looking character said matter-of-factly, with a grin: “Yeah, she’s a good sort but – has to be said – there’s not a lot going on up there.” Her hubby just smiled and nodded.

  3. Bill Brown

     /  October 26, 2018

    Very foolish of Craig to have taken this case – reason being he’s now been labeled by Toogood J as a man who is “guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment”

    And no damages. A confirmation he had / has no reputation.

    With the recent sexual allegations against other MPs it seems our Parliament is a rather perverted kind of place.

    Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  October 26, 2018

      Given Colin never made it into parliament that last comment is a long bow Bill.
      It doesn’t make the comment wrong though.

      Reply
      • Bill Brown

         /  October 26, 2018

        HFD fair point on the bow – but you know what I mean. Vying for public office while sexually harassing female co workers

        Reply
  4. slinkypress

     /  October 26, 2018

    WO blog trying the old “he who shouts the loudest” will be believed. Funny how people get different things out of what they read. According to the Judge WO defamed Craig and that Craig was guilty of moderate sexual harassment, in other words both lost.

    Reply
  5. duperez

     /  October 26, 2018

    Jordan Williams is in the news regularly questioning and criticising the judgement and integrity of others. When he and his supporters say it was an aberration, everyone deserves a second chance, bla bla bla, I for one will vaguely think about accepting it – if he and they show it by saying that Metiria Turei deserves a second chance.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  October 26, 2018

      Jesus – have you heard that she’s flat broke and having to traipse back to bloody Winz again or something?

      Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  October 26, 2018

      Isn’t that a secision for the Greens to make? I doubt Jordan Williams is top of mind when they draw up their candidate list.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  October 26, 2018

        I didn’t mean anything to do with political parties but the mantra ‘once a scumbag always a scumbag.’

        Turei was an incidental example which came to mind. She did something a while back (20+) years so she is dishonest and untrustworthy for life. Williams’ incidents, markedly more recent, is now a much quoted commentator on integrity.
        (Granted Turei had far more serious issues and reason to be doubted – she was a Green politician.)

        Reply
        • High Flying Duck

           /  October 26, 2018

          It was not what she did 20 years ago that ended her political career – it was the disingenuous and misleading way she presented her situation and her actions in the present, and how she tried to use her “alternative facts” to push a political agenda.
          She was revealed as hypocritical, venal and economic with the truth.
          Had the facts backed her story, she would be in parliament with more Green comrades than are currently there…and probably in opposition.
          It was her downfall – generally credited as a well executed Jacinda hit job – that was the catalyst for the rise of Labour.

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  October 26, 2018

            Hard case she was in the Greens eh? Hypocritical, venal and economic with the truth would’ve made her a real party animal – able to get into many.

            Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  October 26, 2018

    It escapes me how none of these serial litigants have long ago reached the obvious point where most of the intelligent posters here would have simply put the record function on and rung the other up and jointly agreed: “Look this has just got pointless & everybody now hates us. Ok so we can’t stand each other – but for God’s sake let’s just get together at some grotty dark cafe, both just say sorry, work something out, & just get on with our bloody lives”.

    Reply
  7. Beanie

     /  October 26, 2018

    Blomfeld should clean Slater out for all his costs (he has plenty of lawyers along the way) and damages based on these points raised in Craig v Slater. [Deleted. Details of the case should have publicly documented evidence before the judgment is released. PG]

    Reply
    • Bill Brown

       /  October 26, 2018

      How so?

      [Deleted]

      The Craig Judgement shows how this all works – Craig killed his own reputation by his actions [deleted, don’t play that game – PG]

      Reply
      • Bill Brown

         /  October 26, 2018

        Fair enough

        Look at it this way – no damages is very telling.

        Also another angle is what about a Craig losing so many cause of actions – he won 2 (no damages) but lost the rest, and damages hardly creates a win

        Craig’s interview with Larry Williams was a cracker

        Goes back to my previous comment yesterday – Craig got nothing, so it’s looking like a big problem if your reputation is less than him to start with

        From what I’ve seen the defamation game just brings to the attention of the wider public what and why the articles were written about in the first place, when most had long forgotten

        All in all a mugs game

        Reply
        • Who are the mugs here?

          The Craig method can obviously be self-defeating. He got sucked into the pig wrestling and over-reacted – I’m aware that that was part of the MO, but he is an exception.

          There are other ways of dealing with malicious and mercenary attacks that can expose why the articles were written about in the first place.

          You of all people should have learned how things can backfire. Nottingham has also found that while he got away with a lot for a long time it eventually caught up on him, now convicted and bankrupt.

          Sure Slater is claiming some sort of victory (as you seem to be too) – but at what cost? There has obviously been a lot of stress and cost. With friends or associates like you who needs enemies? You are self inflicting every bit as much as Craig did. At least he seems to have been able to afford it financially.

          Reply
    • Benjamin Rachinger

       /  October 26, 2018

      I find it quite funny that so many sock puppets show up on our hosts site. I’m abroad and have been to six countries this year – YourNZ is my port of call for NZ info.

      Slater… you’ve lost mate. Lost at life and lost at politics. Take a break.

      Reply
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