Craig wins defamation appeal against no show Slater

Colin Craig has had significant success in an appeal against against the judgment in tit for tat defamation judgment versus Cameron Slater and also the comopany that owned the Whale Oil blog, Social Media Consultants Limited (now in liquidation).

Slater didn’t attempt to challenge the appeal – he has tried to avoid being involved in several court proceedings since having a stroke and declaring himself bankrupt, but courts have found he is still liable for what he has done on his Whale Oil Blog.

The Court of Appeal has found that the High Court judgment was incorrect in not awarding damages and costs to Craig, who had been partly successful (and Slater’s counter claims failed). Further, it has been found that the seriousness of the defamation was more serious than originally found.

In a lengthy and comprehensive judgment of some 249 pages, delivered in
October 2018, Toogood J held that Mr Slater was liable in defamation for two publications: that Mr Craig had placed Ms MacGregor under financial pressure to sleep with him, and that he had sexually harassed at least one other victim. The other publications were either not defamatory, or protected by defences of truth, honest opinion or responsible public interest communication. The Judge declined to award Mr Craig damages: his reputational loss was caused almost entirely by his own actions, and a declaration would be adequate vindication.

Mr Slater’s counterclaim was dismissed on the basis Mr Craig’s pamphlet was a justifiable response to an attack made by Mr Slater and thus protected by qualified privilege.

In a separate costs judgment, itself of some 33 pages, the Judge held that, as
Mr Craig’s defamation claim had largely failed, costs would on balance be awarded to Mr Slater, albeit on a reduced basis. On the counterclaim he held each party succeeded and failed in more or less equal measure. Costs on the counterclaim would lie where they fell.

But this has been overturned.

Mr Craig appeals the judgments below on the basis that the Judge erred in
seven respects.

Mr Slater is now a bankrupt, and his company is in liquidation. Neither
participated in the appeal.

A lawyer was appointed by the court to act as a contradictor – in effect to sort of argue for Slater, or at least against Craig.

Five challenges of the appeal failed, but eight succeeded.

The Court found that Slater had posted false accusations and exaggerations, something a number of cases and inquiries have also found.

Slater is back blogging again at the Whale Oil replacement, The BFD, and is again making assertions and insinuations attacking various people. He also usually doesn’t provide any evidence – promises of evidence in the past often were not kept. He is not reliable or credible wherever ‘the evidence is in the mail’.

Did the High Court err by failing to award Mr Craig damages?

As we have noted, the Judge held Mr Slater liable in defamation for two
statements: that Mr Craig had placed Ms MacGregor under financial pressure to sleepwith him, and that he had sexually harassed at least one other victim. But he declined to award Mr Craig damages, reasoning that Mr Craig’s reputational loss was caused almost entirely by his own actions, and a declaration would be adequate vindication.

We are satisfied that the Judge erred in not awarding damages.

Did the High Court err in its costs judgment?

The Judge held Mr Craig’s defamation claim against the respondents failed,
except to a minor extent. His Honour awarded costs to Mr Slater but reduced them as he failed in relation to an issue which significantly increased Mr Craig’s costs.

As to Mr Slater’s counterclaim against Mr Craig, the Judge found that
succeeded in the sense that Mr Craig’s statements were defamatory and untrue. But Mr Craig’s defence of qualified privilege based on a proportionate response to attack succeeded in whole. The Judge found each party succeeded and failed in more or less equal measure. He ordered costs for the counterclaim lie where they fell.

The effect of the present appeal being allowed is that Mr Craig has enjoyed
rather greater success on the principal claim than he did in the High Court, and that the costs award must be set aside.

Result

The appeal is allowed, to the extent set out at (in the judgment).

The appellant is entitled to costs in this Court for a standard appeal on a band A basis plus any disbursements.

Damages are remitted for redetermination in the High Court, along with costs therein, in light of the terms of this judgment.

So Craig will get costs awarded for his appeal, and should now get some damages and costs awarded by the High Court.

With Slater bankrupt and already with significant court cost and legal debts he is unlikely to pay costs or damages. And Social Media Consultants in liquidation – there may be some assets to distribute but with other substantial awards and costs in other defamation cases (in particular versus Matthew Blomfield) the available funds could be spread quite thin. However the liquidator is investigating possible transfer of funds and assets.

Craig will feel victorious to an extent, but this will have been costly to him.

Slater (and Jordan Williams and John Stringer) have been shown via various judgments to have effectively trashed the Conservative Party – this is a serious matter in a democracy. Slater also tried to overturn a mayoral election and effectively trashed the political career of Len Brown (no legal action eventuated).

But Slater now has a reputation as a nasty, vindictive, destructive political activist masquerading as media, as does the defunct Whale Oil blog and it’s replacement The BFD. At least it is widely known that any Slater accusations and attacks should be viewed with great suspicion and scepticism.

Craig said he wanted to expose Dirty Politics and to an extent he has succeeded in doing that, which is is a useful public service.

By now Slater’s political and media reputation is so tarnished it may make little difference, but if it further deters anyone from feeding information or money into the Slater sleaze blog then it will have done some good.

The full Court of Appeal judgment.

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12 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  24th July 2020

    Craig is on a financial hiding for nothing — except copious amounts of unfavorable publicity.
    With Slater bankrupt and his company in liquidation there is zero chance of Craig receiving a cent.
    What a pathetic Pyrrhic victory !
    At least his lawyers will get a three course meal out of this vanity exercise.

    Reply
    • Craig has done some public good here, emphasising a warning to bloggers and media that they can’t post made up accusations, they can’t run political hit jobs, they can’t lie without risking serious consequences.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  24th July 2020

      Craig made his money in property development….easy money they say
      The interresting part id the Court of Appeal has ruled on harm from minor defamations.

      [44] For a meaning to be defamatory, it must tend to affect the claimant’s reputation adversely. And it must do so in more than a minor way. That qualification was
      contended for by Mr Miles, for the appellant. Mr Akel queried it. ……….The High Court in New Zealand has approved and adopted that qualification, but it has not yet been considered by this Court.2
      [45] We approve adoption of the “more than minor” harm requirement in
      New Zealand common law, for three reasons. ….Secondly, a threshold of this kind is a necessary consequence of the right to freedom of expression protected by s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. We agree with the reasoning of Palmer J in Sellman v Slater on that point.30
      Thirdly, we consider the requisite threshold standard — “more than minor harm” — was correctly identified in the same decision and is to be preferred to a higher standard based on the word “serious”.3

      as I said yesterday , the judgement describes how Ms Macgregor and Craig were sexual relations but not intercourse but after the 2011 election she wanted to go back to ‘being professional only’
      “It is evident that an attraction developed between the two, part spiritual, part romantic and part sexual”
      Straight out of Shortland St

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  25th July 2020

        ‘were sexual relations but not intercourse’….this very Clintonesque meaning what exactly?

        Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  24th July 2020

    Been a bad year for cockroaches.

    Reply
  3. Jack

     /  24th July 2020

    Craig’s woes are an example of why Christians should not group embark in Politics.

    Reply
  4. Duker

     /  24th July 2020

    To be honest , I give him credit for slogging it out with his accusers…taking on Williams, Slater and Stringer has probably cost him more than his partys tilt at parliament.
    Ive put him alongside Michelle Boag in the Duchys Hall of Fame/Infamy for giving it a go and keep on going.

    Reply
  5. Horacethebear

     /  24th July 2020

    Actually – unless there is a threat of something other than financial penalties that he can never pay slater will keep doing what he does. Now he is bankrupt, there is nothing to stop him in theory saying more crazy lies about anyone!

    Reply
    • I guess there’s nothing to stop him.

      There’s nothing stopping people taking more legal action against him either. But do you really think he would want to risk perpetual litigation and costs and bankruptcy?

      And those who are legally responsible for The BFD may not be keen on following in Whale Oil’s (and SMCL’s) legal and financial footsteps either.

      Reply

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