Dirty prosecution, dirty blogging

A case involving a dirty private prosecution and associated dirty blogging has surfaced again.

NZ Herald:  Lawyer waged ‘personal vendetta’ against ex husband and Kristin School head Peter Clague

A lawyer who embarked on an “orchestrated campaign” to destroy her former husband’s professional career, cause him distress and gain advantage in a property dispute could be struck off after being found guilty of misconduct.

Jeanne Denham breached professional standards and “tarnished the reputation of the profession” through an abuse of court process, a just-released Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal decision has found.

The decision sets out the lengths she went to damage her former spouse, then Kristin School principal Peter Clague. It reveals private emails and texts detailing a secret media strategy against him labelled akin to “waging a personal vendetta”.

The decision is now under appeal, with Denham’s lawyer Warren Pyke warning that the events were highly personal and emotional, involving “flawed human beings” going through an intimate relationship breakup.

Denham took a private prosecution against Clague after police declined to lay charges over an alleged assault at the couple’s Greenhithe home in 2010.

The case was eventually thrown out by a judge as an abuse of process designed to inflict maximum damage on Clague and Kristin School, and to help Denham gain the upper hand in a property claim against Clague.

She was ordered to pay nearly $146,000 in costs, which remains outstanding after Denham declared herself bankrupt.

It’s not uncommon for marital disputes to turn nasty but the lengths gone to here are extraordinary, including abusing legal processes through a private prosecution – using the court as a weapon in a dispute.

And a blog was also used as a weapon.

Nicky Hager claimed in ‘Dirty Politics’ that Whale Oil was used as a paid for attack blog, and that is what happened in this case.

Evidence included a trove of emails and text messages between Denham and PR merchant Carrick Graham, who helped organise damaging, paid posts about Clague and Kristin School on the Whale Oil attack blog.

In an email exchange in November 2012, Graham wrote that the campaign had already generated media coverage, forcing the school board to issue two letters to parents.

“It would be safe to say that Clague has had the blow-torch applied to him in terms of a much wider audience being aware of his actions. In terms of reputational hits he is damaged goods.”

In another exchange after a Whale Oil post alleging Kristin board members had known about the allegations and done nothing, Denham wrote that “Cameron’s blog is starting to generate interest in the Kristin community. It’ll spread like wildfire now!”

This was back in the days when Whale Oil had some clout.

Throwing out Denham’s case, Judge David McNaughton ruled: “I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this private prosecution has been brought for an ulterior motive by the complainant, that is primarily to destroy [Clague’s] career and reputation and collaterally to damage Kristin School and at the same time to obtain an advantage in pressing the relationship claim.

“Furthermore … she knowingly and actively sought to subvert the operation of suppression orders with the assistance of Mr Graham and Cameron Slater and that in itself constitutes a serious abuse of process.”

Slater has never addressed the allegations made by and detailed by Hager, but this is evidence of paid for dirty blogging.

It’s not the only example that has made it into the courts. The high profile multiple defamation cases involving Colin Craig and Whale Oil and Slater may or may not have involved money, but it looked like a political and personal hit job.

Another case that has slowly made it’s way though the courts is another defamation case alleging possibly paid for attack posts run on Whale Oil against businessman Matthew Blomfield.

This is the latest ruling in the High Court but the defamation case will be largely through the District Court (not available online).

When as a part of that legal process Slater made a legal commitment not to attack Blomfield it spilled over here in 2015, with an associate of Slater using multiple pseudonyms to attack Blomfield at Your NZ. This appeared to breach Slater’s gag order.

Slater was also involved with the attempt by Marc Spring to gag Your NZ through a court order in 2015. This appeared to be a mix of malice and retaliation.

This threatened to shut down this site and imprison me. This farce was thrown out when the judge was advised he had been duped by legal incompetents. Their claims were fabricated, they didn’t follow defined procedures, and the law they used (the Harmful Digital Communications Act) didn’t come into affect for another year.

This isn’t the only time Slater has been involved in abuse of court processes against me, and there have been threats of more recently.

There is another defamation case against Slater, and also involving Carrick Graham and the use of Whale Oil as an attack blog, that is presumably still in progress – see Blogger Cameron Slater faces defamation action from health researchers.

Three top health professionals have lodged a defamation claim against blogger Cameron Slater and PR consultant Carrick Graham alleging a long running campaign against them on the Whale Oil website.

Auckland University professor Boyd Swinburn, Otago professor Doug Sellman and the director of Maori agency Shane Bradbrook said they had filed proceedings in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

The trio said in a statement their proceedings related to blog posts and comments published on the Whale Oil website over a number of years.

As well as defamation claimed against Slater and Graham, defendants include FACILITATE COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, KATHERINE RICH and NEW ZEALAND FOOD & GROCERY COUNCIL INCORPORATED – see JUDGMENT OF PALMER J.

So the ‘personal vendetta’ in a marital dispute that involved Slater and Graham and Whale Oil is just one example of a history of dirty blogging.

Whale Oil is far less prominent now, and the media don’t spread their campaigns any more, but posts under the authorship of ‘Cameron Slater’ will now continue to be under some suspicion of being a part of personal vendettas and/or paid for attacks.

See also this insight from 2015 into some of the Carrick/Slater mentality and Modus Operandi: Carrick Graham: Without Apologies

Whale against the tide

Whale has appeared to have become a convert to Winston Peters and NZ First over the last few months. If things as they appear that would make Cameron Slater a bigger political somer saulter than Martyn Bradbury.

Such is the profound change from sustained attack to frequent promoter it has raised questions about whether money was involved. Whale Oil have some history of being a campaigner for hire.

But such is the lack of reaction or negative reaction to Winston Peters puff pieces, and such is the strength of reaction to attacks on National, on John Key and on Bill English once could be a bit suspicious of whether a reverse psychology game is being played.

Today in Matthew Hooton on John Key’s legacy whoever complied the article quoted Matthew Hooton’s latest NBR column:

But, in the end, Mr Key just couldn’t be bothered. Instead he wasted his eight years as prime minister on a personal project of self-aggrandisement that has ceded all ideological territory to the left. It means Mr English and Mr Joyce will almost certainly respond to Labour’s latest spending promises with new claims on the taxpayers’ wallet of their own – and they will probably be making the right political judgment in doing so.

The one hope to avoid an entirely braindead campaign is that while Mr Key turned out to be as shallow as an empty birdbath, Mr English is clearly capable of considerable ideological depth.

Whoever wrote the article then said:

John Key squandered his personal political capital. Not on useful things, but on stupid, idiotic things that were never going to make a difference to anyone, like the flag referendum. That was the beginning of the end for John Key. He realised that he could no longer sway people his way. They flipped the bird at him and killed off his personal project. I imagine his decision to jack it all in came shortly after the referendum results.

It’s sad really, no one will remember John Key in 3 years time. His high popularity was for naught.

Key was knighted last month and a few days ago Sir John Key receives Australia’s highest honour so he doesn’t seem to have been forgotten yet. Slater may not have forgotten being dropped off Key’s phone list three years ago after Dirty Politics came out in the open, but the Whale Oil troops don’t seem to hold the same grudge.

Sounds a little bitter if you ask me. Yes he could’ve done more to further a centre right philosophy instead of pinching votes with centre left antics but some might say this was required to stay on the treasury benches.

– Steve Kay, currently 11 upticks

No one will remember John Key in three years? Rubbish!
He is and will remain one of our most internationally respected politicians and New Zealand Prime Ministers.

– Jude, currently 29 upticks

John Key was the best politician of my lifetime. Did he go to the left? Yes, under MMP it is political suicide to ignore what middle voting families want.
I have never blamed Key, and the fact that the left vilified him for being Mr nice-guy says more about them than him.

– KGB, currently 20 upticks

He wasted his eight years as Prime Minister leading us through a global financial crisis and coming out at the top of the world. He wasted his eight years as Prime Minister coping with two catastrophic earthquakes in Christchurch and a catastrophic earthquake in Kaikoura, and yet somehow the country is still not bankrupt. If anyone else was Prime Minister during that period we would probably now have the economy of Venezuela.

– Uncle Bob, currently 30 upticks

John Key did nothing? Apart from getting rid of Helen Clark, steering the country almost effortlessly through the worst recession in our lifetime and coping with not one, but three major earthquakes. Apart from that, you mean?

– MacDoctor, currently 30 upticks

I read Hootens article yesterday. It just reminded me how petty irrelevant people become when their jealously takes hold.

Key was one of our most outstanding PMs

We’re not a country of revolutionaries. We don’t need massive ideological swings. We like stability. Key gave us this in spades.

– Valid Point, currently 22 upticks

If the post was aimed at slagging off Key then it failed badly. But was it designed to rally the troops to show how well Key is liked amongst the Whale commenters?

I doubt it by the look of posts promoting Peters, where Slater has taken to getting directly involved on comments threads, trying to talk against the tide of criticism of Peters. Without much success by the look of the tick balance.

From Vox populi, Vox Dei: On Winston being Prime Minister:

WOSlaterVTroops

This has become quite common, with anti-National posts getting strong opposition from commenters, and pro-Peters posts getting slammed. And Slater seems to have no potency in his attempts to stem the counter-damage to his agenda.

Craig’s poem back in court

Colin Craig is back in court this week, appealing a High Court decision that found his copyright claim on publication of a poem he wrote was vexatious.

Most media seem to have had enough of Craig in court but NZ City covers it:  Colin Craig’s poem lawsuit back in court

Judge Mary Beth Sharp threw Mr Craig’s copyright lawsuit out in December, calling it “vexatious”, “improper” and a “deception perpetrated on the court”.

On Wednesday, lawyers for Craig appealed that decision in the High Court at Auckland, saying a literary work didn’t have to reach “Tolstoy’s standards” to be protected and that there were legal arguments that still needed to be heard.

Lawyer Kevin Glover said the case shouldn’t have been thrown out over a procedural error made by Mr Craig – who failed to file a reply to a document – because he had been arguing the case for himself as a “layperson”.

“Mr Craig should have had a bit more slack cut to him,” he said.

There had been no other agenda behind the lawsuit as found by the judge, Mr Glover said, adding the decision had been “coloured” by media coverage of other legal cases Mr Craig was involved in.

“He has a legitimate claim for infringement of copyright.”

But this claim was opposed.

But Mr William’s lawyer, Peter McKnight, told Justice Mark Woolford the case could not be considered independently of Mr Craig’s numerous other legal proceedings, reading out a long list.

“He’s had his day in court. In fact, he’s had seven-and-a-half weeks,” Mr McKnight said.

And counting. But court decisions aren’t based on quotas. Slater’s  days in court must be clocking up too – most not of his choice, but he has certainly stretched out some procedures.

Mr Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry, said Mr Craig had chosen to run the case himself and could have easily hired lawyers as he had done in past.

That’s an odd point to pick out. The item concludes:

The hearing continues.

But ‘Whaleoil staff’ state:

The judgement was entered in favour of Mr Craig, who now gets to pursue his copyright claim in a separate court case.

I have no idea why Craig continues with all his legal crusades. he seems to think that his honour is at stake but I don’t think he is enhancing his fairly tattered reputation – the wrecking of which seems to have been the aim of Williams and Slater. They have succeeded, but they didn’t help their own reputations in the process.

Whale Oil is again allowing criticisms and comments against Craig in relation to ongoing court proceedings they are involved in. I think this is unwise, and find it highly hypocritical given their accusations and threats here over the last few days. ‘Albert’ posted “The last few months have been a free for all in your comments against Slater “, which is not true, while they allow a virtual free for all against Craig to continue.

‘Whale Oil for Winston’ versus Seymour and ACT

David Seymour has been targeted by Whale Oil over his criticism of Winston Peters.

Last week:  Winston Peters criticised for telling Islamic communities to ‘clean house’

Winston Peters has told Parliament New Zealand’s Islamic communities “must clean house” and it “should start with their own families”.

Mr Peters was criticised by the next speaker, ACT leader David Seymour.

“There will have to be a more serious and wider debate about when and whether such an event can happen here,” he said.

“And it will have to be a debate without naked political opportunism, as we have heard from New Zealand First.”

Whale Oil has picked up on this. They have been campaigning against every party except NZ First, and frequently have anti-Muslim posts, some of them tending towards the extreme.

Cameron Slater has griped about National since he was cold shouldered after Dirty Politics, and he seems to have held a grudge Bill English for a long time.  Yesterday in  This election the choices are stark:

I can’t and won’t support a party led by Bill English. Not after the UNSC 2334 debacle, not after intransigence on immigration, and not for personal reasons.

One of Slater’s biggest difficulties as a political activist is he gets too personal, with long standing grudges and many burnt bridges resulting in ongoing flaming. He frequently attacks all parties – except NZ First.

For some reason Whale Oil has become very pro-Winston Peters – quite a turnaround from the past. And Peters’ anti-Muslim stance fits with the Whale Oil campaign – they often have several anti-Muslim posts a day, under the names of ‘Cameron Slater’ and ‘SB’ (Slater’s wife).

After Seymour’s criticism of Peters  Slater has switched his  attacks to Seymour and ACT.

On Saturday:  According to David Seymour it is Winston Peters who causes radicalisation and terrorism

Another email to David Seymour from a reader:

To: David Seymour
From: [Redacted]

An anonymous email which just happens to sound as contrived as many Whale Oil posts.

Dear Mr Seymour,

My party vote for 2017 was up for grabs after being a National voter since 1975. However, you blew it by castigating Winston Peters over his speech warning us that radical Islam is on our doorstep.

When you are a bit older, you might gain some sense about what the world is all about. Sadly, it appears that you are merely a product of mushy university-think and your actions re Winston Peters reveal that you are completely out of touch with the real problems of the real world.

You came tantalizingly close to getting a new voter but you have now revealed that your right-centre stance is fake.

That’s funny. Whale Oil has previously ran a number of posts purportedly from voters deserting National because of a handful of issues that happen to coincide with the Whale Oil campaign focus that is largely pro-Israel and anti-Muslim.

Dirty Politics alleged that Whale Oil was paid to promote certain lines. And there is some evidence of this in the past.

Stuff in 2014:  Blogging, money and blurred lines

The man at the centre of the Dirty Politics firestorm sits on a leafy street in Tel Aviv, Israel, just a block from the shores of the Mediterranean, sipping a blended mint lemonade.

Cameron “Whale Oil” Slater is bleary-eyed, having spent 24 hours on a plane, and now finds himself in a war zone during a ceasefire. It’s Friday in Israel; Saturday back home.

He’s one of a group of international journalists invited to visit by the Israeli government, which has been earning bruising international condemnation over the civilian death toll in the Gaza conflict.

The Israeli embassy approached him about the trip, he says, and covered some costs, but he is paying for a significant portion of his travels. He has posted anti-Hamas and pro-Israel stories on his blog in the past.

The arrangement may sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has read certain chapters of Nicky Hager’s controversial new book Dirty Politics, which is based on thousands of emails stolen from Slater’s computer.

Besides his central claims that National used Slater’s Whale Oil blog as an conduit for “dirty” attacks on its political enemies, Hager also says Slater took cash in exchange for running stories for a range of commercial clients.

That trip, paid at least in part for by the Israeli government, awkwardly coincided with the Dirty Politics implicating Slater as a mercenary blogger.

Seymour responded to the anonymous Whale Oil ‘reader’:

To: [REDACTED]
From: David Seymour

Date: 7 June 2017

There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population. The best way to make sure the few radicals amongst them do some thing stupid is to have an idiot like Winston persecuting the whole community for political gain.

Your vote, however, is your own,

David

‘Cameron Slater’ reacted to this:

A few?

David Seymour needs to understand some basic math. If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting. That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

It’s not so much basic maths that are absent, it is basic facts. There are none.

Slater needs to understand what Seymour actually said.

Seymour:  “There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population”.

Slater: “If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting.”

That’s an assertion unrelated to what Seymour said, and not backed by any facts.

Slater continued:

That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

A more realistic thing for a journalist to do would be to base their assertions on facts, but Slater is obviously not wearing is journalist hat here.

He mentions ‘Pew Research’ as some authority for his escalating 1%, 10%, “much higher” assertions but lacks basic facts.

A Pew Research from last month:  Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

There is no reference to ‘radical’ or radicalized’ anywhere in the report (there are some in comments).

There is no mention of New Zealand (nor Australia except a couple of times in comments).

Slater also showed an appalling grasp of maths and facts in this post:  Muslims will outnumber Christians in New Zealand in 60 years – Pew Research that quotes RNZ:

There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in fewer than 60 years, new research shows – and New Zealand is one of eight countries that will lose their Christian majority in that time.

The number of countries with a Christian majority is expected to decline from 159 to 151 by 2050, with the proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57 percent of the population at present to 44.7 percent.

At that point, according to the study’s projections, the largest religious category in New Zealand will be “unaffiliated” at 45.1 percent.

He takes two projections…

  1. There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in 60 years
  2. The proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57% of the population at present to 44.7% by 2050

…and claims from that that there will be more Muslims than Christians here.

But he ignores or fails to notice “the largest religious category in New Zealand will be ‘unaffiliated’ at 45.1”.

So Pew estimates there will be about 90% Christians plus ‘unaffiliated’. Muslims and all other religious affiliations are estimated be only 10%, so Muslims alone will be nowhere near a majority.

Currently there are more Hindus (2.11%) and Buddhists (1.5%) in New Zealand than Muslims (1.18%), with ‘other religions’ and ‘Spiritualism and New Age religions also totalling 1.35%.

The Slater and Whale Oil attacks on Muslims, and on Seymour and Act, are based on bull – whether it is deliberately wrong or based on ignorance doesn’t matter.

I think it is fair to be very sceptical of the comments on the all the activist campaign posts at Whale Oil too. I think it’s well known that Whale Oil ‘moderates’ out comments and commenters that don’t fit with their messages.

And I think there’s a good reason to be very suspicious of who some of the commenters actually are. I know that some of those associated with Whale Oil have a habit of using multiple IDs.

It’s easy to guess why Whale Oil is campaigning against ACT/Seymour and it is obvious why they are campaigning against National and Bill English.

Why they have become a NZ First promotion blog is less obvious, but the open support for them and their strong bias against other parties and MPs is farcical for a site sometimes claiming to be ‘media’ and ‘journalism’.

And hugely hypocritical yet again given their attacks on other media as being ‘the media party’.

I’m not sure that al this will help NZ First. ‘Whale Oil for Winston’ is more likely to be a toxic association than a vote winner.

WO: political threats against Auckland councillor

This looks like political threats at Whale Oil against Auckland City councillor Denise Lee, under the name of ‘Cameron Slater’ in Will Denise Lee suffer at List Ranking?

National candidate for Maungakiekie Denise Lee surprised everyone in National when she voted for Phil Goff’s pillow tax.

Whale Oil may still speak for some in National with particular interests but nowhere near “everyone in National”.

This was despite a lot of lobbying from National Party Board Member Alastair Bell, who was trying to ensure National candidates actually followed party policy, and listened to him.

Obviously Denise failed to do either, so there are a lot of angry people in National who can’t believe National have a candidate who basically rolls over whenever anyone puts some pressure on her.

A very ironic claim about ‘anyone’ putting pressure on Lee.

This may be just posturing from WO, but if it is accurate I think it is alarming.

Lee is an Auckland City councillor, representing and acting for the people of Auckland.

She is also a National candidate, standing for an electorate and presumably also after a party list position.

There are a number of local body politicians standing in this year’s general election. They will need to campaign for their parties, but while they are still local body politicians they need to separately do their jobs there independently of their future aspirations.

It is alarming to see what looks to me like political blackmail – Lee voted differently to what Whale Oil/Slater/whoever wanted so they are attacking her and apparently threatening her chances on the National Party list selection.

I doubt that Slater actually has much if any input into the National Party list, especially given how much he criticises and attacks the party, the Prime Minister and other ministers and MPs.

The tipline has been running hot that Alastair Bell is furious because he has been made to look like a right fool by Denise, and his clients are very, very unhappy with him.

Without corroboration or specifics “tipline has been running hot” is WO hot air. My tipline is running hot that Slater is an arse.

Who are Alistair Bell’s clients and what do they have to do with this?

So now there is talk of a plan to give Denise a very low list position so she learns quickly that you cannot defy National Party policy and expect to get away with it, even if you are from the wet or Nikki Kaye wing of the National Party.

So now there is talk of a plan by shadowy political operatives using Whale Oil to publish barely veiled threats against a city councillor and national election candidate.

And they can’t resist dissing a successful National MP and minister in the process.

Let’s see how she copes when the rumoured third party campaign, funded by angry moteliers, gets underway against her.

This looks more like the ‘dirty politics’ part of Whale Oil in action, it certainly doesn’t look like journalism.

No supported facts, just ‘rumours’. Rumour mongering and Whale Oil are not strangers. Neither are dirty politics and Slater.

This Whale Oil post has tried to present itself as representing the views of “everyone in National” and “a lot of angry people in National”.

What it shows is that Whale Oil is still being used to target and threaten sitting local body politicians and general election candidates.

And it smells dirty. Not just against Denise Lee. This may also be deliberately trying to muddy National’s election campaign. WhaleOil/Slater has been showing signs of campaigning against National for some time, and dirtiness seems to be starting to kick in.

Craig v Slater – trial summary

Steve Braunias covered the Colin Craig versus Cameron Slater defamation trial for NZ Herald and summarises in Craig v Slater: The end of the affair – here’s a summary of that.

Craig claimed Slater libelled him on Whaleoil. Slater counter-claimed Craig libelled him in Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, a piece of fulminating junk mail delivered to 1,623,402 letterboxes. Their judge-alone trial was set down for three weeks. It dragged on for four, fizzling out on Thursday afternoon.

What was all that about? What was the point of the exercise, what was the moral of the story? Can any sense be made of it?

The key questions are what Justice Toogood makes of it. In short, who defamed who (or not), and what value damages can be applied if any.

The judgment could provide a useful legal guide to what is appropriate for a blog to publish when revealing alleged wrong doing of a politician, and also what is an appropriate level of response to a perceived political attack.

The problem they had with each other dated back to 2014, at the last election. Craig’s Conservative Party lost out on getting into Parliament and one of the factors may have been the abrupt and most newsworthy departure of his press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, 48 hours before election day. She later accused Craig of sexual harassment and took his ass to the Human Rights Commission. It was settled in mediation.

There it might have remained, but Slater posted spectacular revelations on his blog which set out to expose Craig as a lunging, panting, poetry-writing sex pest. Craig said: “See you in court!” Slater more or less responded: “Not if I see you first!”

Craig filed for defamation against Slater, and Slater filed for defamation against Craig. The trial combined these counter claims.

Craig defended himself. He learned on the job; he was amateur, and rambling, and now and then was the cause of much vexatiousness to Justice Toogood, but he kept his cool and was methodical, sometimes effective.

Slater was able to sit back in the far corner of the public gallery and chew gum. He was represented by Brian Henry and Charlotte Foster.

(Henry’s) closing addressed the matter of costs; his client, he said, was seeking $450,000, and then there was his own fees, which were $12,000 for every day of the trial.

$450,000 is a lot more realistic than the over $16 million mentioned in opening arguments in the trial.

Craig and Slater were like shadows of their former selves at the trial; 2014, the setting of much of what was said in court, was when both were key players in New Zealand politics, were taken seriously, were in the public eye.

Craig has disappeared since he stepped down as leader.

Slater, too, seems like a blast from the past. His media profile was immense until the wrecking ball of Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics.

The influence of both in politics has diminished significantly since their very public clash.

Which left the sex, or the absence thereof. Henry argued that it was entirely fair and accurate of Slater to write that Craig had sexually harassed MacGregor when she worked for him as press secretary.

Craig argued it was a total slander. It didn’t happen; it couldn’t happen; for it was his duty to tell the court that MacGregor found him sexually attractive, that they had an “emotional affair”, that she came onto him on a flight to Napier … They were chaste, but their sexual longing was epic. It was, Craig stressed, a love story.

“It’s a figment of his imagination,” said Henry.

“Weird,” said MacGregor, over and over, describing Craig when she appeared in court. She was subpoenaed to give evidence against Craig at the trial. She might be described as a hostile witness, which is to say her contempt for Craig was thick, constant, thorough.

Notably more hostile than when she appeared as a witness in Williams v Craig.

Craig told the court that they had different stories: “One of them must be right. They both can’t be true.” And so he set about trying to establish a reasonable doubt as to the accuracy of MacGregor’s story.

The credibility of Craig versus MacGregor is a critical aspect of the case. It is for Justice Toogood to work this out.

…from Madeleine Flannagan, the Orewa lawyer who Craig called to give evidence. She told the court an astonishing story. As Henry later said, in his closing address, “In my 42 years in the law, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Flannagan said she had acted for the Craigs when they were wanting to adopt a child. Their application, she said, faced a potential barrier when Slater made it public that he had information MacGregor wasn’t the only person to fall foul of Craig, that there were “other victims”.

What to do? Flannagan came up with a novel idea: she would phone Slater, who happened to be a friend, and ask him what he had on Craig – without revealing that Craig was her client. Slater took her call to mean that her client was, in fact, another “victim”. He was very, very eager to want to believe that, she said.

Craig had fought to get Flannagan admitted as a witness. It was a victory he must have savoured. Her evidence was designed to make Slater look bad in court. Well, it was a hell of a way to go about it. As Slater subsequently said to Henry on the witness stand, “I’m lost for words, Mr Henry, at the betrayal of someone who I considered a friend.”

Reported during the trial:

Justice Kit Toogood asked Slater: “You say you felt betrayed, but did you not betray her express injunction that this [conversation] cannot go anywhere else?”

“I did dance around on that but I guess technically I did,” Slater said.

This is another key aspect of the trial because it seems to be the potentially Slater’s biggest vulnerability – whether his claims of a ‘second victim’ were true or not, whether based on fact or assumption.

UPDATE: Slater has revealed that he tried to suppress information about Flannagan “to protect a source”:

Flannagan seems to be under the impression that I called her as a witness. I did not. It was Colin Craig. What she does not know is that up until Colin Craig declared her to be his witness I had sought and won suppression orders for her name, her practice and her location. Colin Craig opposed all of those.

I sought to protect a source until a) the judge ordered me to file a confidential memo to him only naming my source and the circumstances of our conversations and b) it was revealed by Colin Craig that she was his lawyer. After that the gloves came off and rightly so too.

Presumably he also preferred that her evidence wasn’t heard in the case.

‘Whaleoil staff’ have suggested that Slater is unhappy that this evidence was allowed. It will be up to Justice Toogood to decide how much veracity and weight it will be given.

Braunias:

Craig brought 13 separate causes of action against Slater in his defamation claim. He made what seemed to be a pretty good job in arguing that at least a few of Slater’s remarks were a nonsense – the accusation that there were “other victims”, and that Craig paid MacGregor a kind of hush payment of $107,500 to settle her sexual harassment complaint. Neither stacked up.

Equally, though, Henry raised strong arguments that Slater’s opinions ought to be protected by qualified privilege. The nature of Craig’s resignation as Conservative Party leader, for example, was the subject of perfectly legitimate media inquiry, he said; Slater was just one of many media commentators expressing strong opinions about that, so what was the problem?

Henry put it even more long-winded than that. Justice Toogood attempted an edit.

“Is it your point, Mr Henry, really this – once Mr Craig elected to call a press conference, to say, ‘I’m standing down’, that created legitimate media and public interest, and from there on in, any allegation that Mr Slater, or anyone else for that matter, was acting with an improper motive, can’t be sustained?”

“Yes, Your Honour,” said Henry, “that is a very apt summary.”

‘Whaleoil staff’ claims that Slater and Whale Oil only initiated the story and other media took over from there, but as I remember it WO also kept pushing it hard – including the later ‘second person’ claim of sexual harassment.

Such exchanges raised vaguely interesting issues about media practice, and press freedoms. But they were minor kinds of skirmishes. The trial kept coming back to its central theme – whether Craig sexually harassed MacGregor, or whether she returned his feelings.

The only two people who know the truth are Craig and MacGregor, and he has his version and she has hers, but very often it really didn’t look too good for Craig in court. MacGregor’s hatred for him was intense. Her denials of his story were vehement, disgusted, complete.

The judge will need to decide whether those expressed feelings now were true back in 2014 or have escalated since.

Press gallery journalist Barry Soper gave evidence, and talked about the widespread rumour that Craig and MacGregor were having an affair.

Craig: “Did you form any impression?”

Soper: “I thought the relationship was a very familiar one.”

“I did not sexually harass Miss MacGregor,” Craig droned, repeatedly, in his closing address on Thursday. He was stating things for the record but sometimes it felt as though he was talking to himself. “Ours was an affectionate, mutually appreciative relationship … Myself and Miss MacGregor took place in a workplace romance … At the very least, Miss MacGregor had feelings for me.”

He read out her texts and emails that were produced as exhibits. “Hug, hug, hug,” he recited. “Smiley face … Hug, hug.

An unwelcome personal relationship under pressure in a professional environment? Or at least some mutual involvement until it turned sour? Relationships gone bad and then raked over can both amplify and suppress.

The key points as I see it:

  • The nature of the relationship between Craig and MacGregor while MacGregor worked for Craig. I think it was inappropriate in a professional employer/employee situation, but whether it was sexual harassment is under dispute.
  • According to ‘Whaleoil staff’ Slater accepts he got the ‘second person’ claim wrong so how this affects the outcome may depend on whether Flannagan’s evidence is allowed.
  • Whether Slater’s posts at Whale Oil were an appropriate use of a blog/media in the circumstances, or whether they went to far.
  • Whether Craig’s response via press conferences and the pamphlet delivered throughout the country was acceptable in the circumstances, or was excessive.

Justice Toogood needs to work this all out in a legal context.

I won’t make any predictions, I have not heard the evidence and have only seen reports of the trial.

The verdict may favour one or the other of Craig or Slater, in which case both damages and costs may be awarded.

But if defamation is found proven against both of them then I presume the judge will decide on damages for each, and also costs, and they may partially or totally balance out to not much or nothing.

Hopefully the decision will be accepted and that will be the end of this matter, but both Craig and Slater have been involved in drawn out legal actions involving appeals so it may drag interminably on if either of them choose to take the decision to another level.

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.

 

Craig v Slater – closing submissions

Cameron Slater’s lawyer gave his closing submission today in his defamation trial against Colin Craig, and Craig started his (he will complete it tomorrow).

Stuff: Closing submissions heard in Colin Craig defamation trial

In his closing submission on Wednesday afternoon, Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry again questioned the credibility of evidence presented by Craig.

Screenshots purporting to be taken from an old phone of Craig’s mostly showed texts MacGregor sent, but many of Craig’s texts were missing, Henry said.

Henry said Craig had tried to discredit his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, after she alleged he sexually harassed her.

He reminded the court Craig had written to his lawyer in June 2015 saying that “he was going to deliberately destroy [MacGregor’s] reputation by alleging a failed attempt at blackmail”.

“She’s not dealing with a plaintiff who to her, has turned out to be a very nice person.”

In Craig’s closing submission…

…he again denied sexually harassing MacGregor, and said allegations posted on Whaleoil were false and part of a campaign to oust him as Conservative Party leader.

Contrary to Slater’s articles, Craig did not have a “second victim,” was not a “sexual deviant” and hadn’t paid MacGregor “a large sum of hush money, being six figures”, he said.

He also denied sending MacGregor letters begging for an affair or putting financial pressure on her to sleep with him.

“These publications are highly defamatory. They all to a greater or lesser extent would lower how a normal person in society would see me,” Craig said.

Slater was counter suing Craig for defamation following comments made in a booklet Craig distributed to more than a million New Zealand households.

But Craig said the booklet was published “in response to the sustained attack”.

1 News: Closing arguments heard in Colin Craig v Cameron Slater defamation case

Representing himself, Mr Craig said during his closing argument today that the heart of the trial rested on who Justice Toogood believed was telling the truth.

He said Slater in 2015 recklessly published a series of demonstrably false allegations, including that Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, put pressure on her financially to sleep with him and paid her a large, six-figure sum of hush money.

He said these allegations contributed to the “media firestorm” that engulfed him after he stood down as leader of the Conservative Party in 2015 and ruined any chance he had of reviving his political career.

However, Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry…

…said it was Mr Craig’s own actions that were responsible for the damage to his reputation, not Slater’s blogs.

He said Mr Craig had not only behaved “inappropriately” with Ms MacGregor, but then lied about it and attempted to cover it up.

He also said Whaleoil was just a small publication compared to New Zealand’s mainstream media outlets and that Slater had simply republished many of the allegations made by these larger outlets.

But despite a lot of criticism of the mainstream media Slater had in the past used it to promote his stories. He now complains a lot about the media ignoring him.

Despite this, Mr Craig had chosen to sue the smaller and less-resourced Slater rather than the outlets that drove most of the media publicity, Mr Henry said.

The judge will have to decide who drove what, and perhaps work out who was the least bad.

Justice Kit Toogood may begin considering his judgment in the case as early as tomorrow, having heard closing arguments from both parties in Auckland today.

Stuff said Craig will finish his closing submission tomorrow.

It will probably take a few weeks at least for the judgment.

Whale Oil and NZ First

It’s been obvious for some time that Cameron Slater and therefore Whale Oil had gone off National – politics hath no fury like a Slater scorned.

After Dirty Politics was published in the lead up to the 2014 John Key and most National MPs distanced themselves a politically toxic associate. Slater was noticeably peeved about his contacts and his sources of insider stories drying up. Regular anti-National posts became the norm on Whale Oil.

Slater has long held an obvious grudge against Bill English so when John Key stepped down and English took over, and in doing so easily beating Slater favourite Judith Collins, National was cemented on Slater’s hit list.

Since then, as a number of people here have noted, Slater has often been promoting Winston Peters and NZ First. This seemed surprising given Slater’s past treatment of Peters and his party. It has been speculated that there may be some connection with this to Slater’s lawyer in his defamation case with Colin Craig being Brian Henry, who has been associated with Peters in the past.

There could be a more politically pragmatic reason why Slater is promoting NZ First.

If NZ First are in a position to determine the outcome of this year’s election and enter a coalition with Labour  then there’s a good chance either English would resign as leader or National will dump English – I think English would be more likely to jump first. This would open another opportunity for Collins.

Alternately if NZ First form a coalition with National that would be likely to be National’s last term in government. That would mean Collins would need to be more patient, or it could give another Slater client a chance to establish themselves in the leadership stakes.

Or it could be simpler than this – Slater has been abandoned by National, David Seymour and ACT have no time for him, and he may see NZ First as the best way to do some political damage out of spite. It’s difficult to know when he is operating out of political interest and when he is simply dumping on those who have annoyed him, pay back seems to be a common motivation.

The reasons for Slater are turning on National and English are well known. Whatever the reasons for him trying to promote Peters and NZ First he is fighting a battle with Whale Oil supporters  who still tend to lean far more National than NZ First.

PDB posted on this yesterday:

Had a look at Whaleoil and he continues to push his anti-National party agenda with a recent post that tries to lay a case for NZL First being a better bet than ACT. I note the large majority of comments disputed that. A comment from ‘KGB’ sums it up well;

KGB • 7 hours ago
In my opinion no.
A stronger NZF will not take National to the right ‘IF’ they went with National. They would certainly move Labour towards the left of centre more.
NZF policies are mostly a left-wing list.
NZF have weaker Law & Order policy than ACT.
NZF immigration policy is more ridiculous than Labours numbers.
NZF will close Charter Schools.
NZF does not really care about Israel. (1 or 2 questions in the house were about ‘catching’ them out proceedurly, NOT morally). NOT even an ever popular…bottom-line.
NZF has an aweful list. Always has.
Winston is too lazy, and too old to be in Government now, let alone for 3 more years.
Winston has achieved nothing for anyone but himself since losing Tauranga.
Most NZ’ers have never owned a gun, and hate the things.
And lastly, ask Northland how its working out for them?

That got 9 up ticks. Slater responded:

Be that as it may…they have more MPs than Act. The reality is Act is and will remain a spent force. It is a waste of time voting for Act. There simply isn’t enough of them to get a slipping National party across the line on current numbers. One MP won’t do it.

Gun owners number around 230,000 voters. That is nearly ten percent under MMP. Ignore us if you want, but piss us off and we vote for parties who will protect our rights…right now that is NZ First.

I think you are wanting NZ First to be a major party in its breadth of policy offerings. The fact they have policies is a good start. Where are National’s? Go look…i think you be will disillusioned quite quickly.https://www.national.org.nz…

Basically it is a numbers game and Act simply doesn’t have the numbers. It is a shame, I’m a natural Act voter, but there is no way I can bring myself to waste a vote by voting for them.

Just 1 up tick for that. A ‘niggly’ response also got 1 up for:

Plus NZF is still anti NZ-China FTA (despite that helping NZ’s economic growth during and after the GFC), is anti-TPPA and anti free-trade in general. I wonder if NZF’s solution to economic growth is borrowing the Green’s money printing press?

They talk big on being pro-defence, but constantly attack spending up on non-offensive necessities like new strategic lift transport aircraft and medium,ift tactical helicopters (and if we hark back to 1998 it was Winston First that pulled the plug on the National cabinet wanting to go ahead with the 3rd ANZAC Frigate purchase … to the anger of the Aussies as they bent over backwards ensuring NZ got hundreds of millions of dollars in offsets that provided jobs for many NZ businesses supplying the Frigate project. Then we wonder why the Howard Govt a few years later made things tough for Kiwi’s living in Oz)!

In a post today Pete Belt claims:

Whaleoil believes it has more influence in our current role than we would have with a parliamentary presence.

Whale Oil continues to provide a popular forum, but their political influence seems minimal. About the only thing Whale Oil has in common with Peters is being anti-establishment – sort of. Neither can claim to be a fresh change in politics.

Whatever Slater’s reasons are for campaigning for Peters and NZ First if he can’t win over his own Whale Oil faithful he’s unlikely to influence the outcome of this year’s election much.

Craig versus MacGregor resuming today

Colin Craig will resume his cross-examination of Rachel MacGregor today. It is unusual for someone accused of sexual harassment to be able to personally question the alleged victim.

Pete Belt at Whale Oil said yesterday:

I’m told it is to give Ms MacGreggor a day off to regain some energy and fortitude. Yesterday was not one of the easiest days of her life. Keep in mind she was there against her will in the first place 😦 I’m told she got testy with the judge towards the end of the day as she felt she wasn’t getting much help from the court. Sadly, the prosecution (Mr Craig) gets to ask just about anything and for as long as he wants.

But Belt has previously said that Craig has been given strict instructions about how he can question MacGregor by the judge.

Craig will have had time to review how things have gone and decide how to proceed from here, hopefully with good legal advice. He is up against a very experienced lawyer, as Peterwn at Whale Oil explains:

You can take it that Brian Henry is a master at his trade. He would have a fair knowledge of the personalities and other attributes of the various judges he appears before. Brian is not going to make an issue of something if there is no immediate need and in particular is not going to point out weaknesses in the other side’s case or evidence. He will gain much by merely listening. The fun starts when he makes his closing submission no doubt to a packed court. He will then point out what is hearsay, identify and disputed facts for the judge to consider and argue which he considers correct, pull apart the other side’s claims and substantiate his client’s claims by applying the facts as needed and dealing with relevant points of law. He will aim to make things easy for the judge when he writes up his decision. That is why he is on the case – no client could do this as effectively as he would do it.

If Craig sums up his own case with the same level of expertise he has conducted himself through this whole issue then it looks like a major mismatch, but it will all come down to what Justice Toogood gets out of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses.

It’s difficult to gauge how a case like this is going based on media reports, which tend to cherry pick bits of general interest or what’s good for headlines rather than legal arguments that can often be tedious.

One part of the trial I would have been interested in was a reported one hour questioning of Cameron Slater by Justice Toogood, but that got just a short paragraph in media coverage.

Something that may not be relevant to the defamation but I think would be of interest that I haven’t seen anything about is the timeline of Jordan Williams’ relationship with MacGregor, and what influence he had on what transpired. This is from the judgment on Williams v Craig:

[8] On 19 November 2014, two months after her resignation, Ms MacGregor told Mr Williams, an acquaintance of hers, that Mr Craig had sexually harassed her. She showed Mr Williams the letters and cards that Mr Craig had sent to her. Mr Williams assured Ms MacGregor and her lawyer that he would keep this information as confidential as if he were her lawyer.