Colin Craig wins defamation case

In contrast to some significant legal losses Colin Craig has had a win in a defamation case against ex-Conservative Party board member John Stringer. The case has been settled out of court prior to a scheduled hearing in March.

1 News: Colin Craig celebrates win in defamation case against former Conservative Party board member

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is celebrating winning a defamation case against a former member of the party’s board, John Stringer.

The High Court in Christchurch yesterday issued a judgement confirming that Mr Craig had been defamed by Mr Stringer.

Mr Stringer was found to have defamed Mr Craig in various statements that alleged Mr Craig had sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel McGregor and one or more other women, and in various statements that alleged Mr Craig had committed business or electoral fraud.

Mr Stringer has retracted his statements, apologised to Mr Craig and settled the matter by payment of a confidential sum.

Mr Craig’s statement said that in 2014 he came under attack from two bloggers, Mr Stringer of CoNZervative Blog and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater.

Both Craig and Stringer have had previous court setbacks in this case.

Slater may now be reviewing his optimistic predictions. He had a major win against Craig when a judge ruled a copyright claim by Craig to be vexatious – see The judgement arrives: Colin Craig cops another one in the chook. Craig is appealing that but he is at real risk there of being seen to be doubling down on vexatiousness.

As well as that there is more to come. Craig is appealing the massive award against him after Jordan Williams one his defamation case.

Also Stringer has a counter claim against Craig for defamation, and Slater also has a claim of defamation against Craig.

NZ Herald: Confidential financial settlement in defamation case between Colin Craig and former Conservative Party board member John Stringer

The former Conservative Party leader sued a board member for defamation. So why is another trial still going ahead?

Stringer confirmed the defamation case against him had been settled, with a confidential financial payment, by consent yesterday.

However, Stringer added his counter-defamation claim against Craig was still going ahead.

He said this is scheduled for June, shortly after another defamation trial between Craig and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

It’s quite possible Craig could be found to have also defamed Stringer in what was an ugly tit for tat public spat.

There seems to be a lot of money and ego involved in all of this.

It will be interesting to see how Whale Oil reports on this settlement.

The decision does not appear to be online yet. Here are previous decisions in the case:

Craig comeback as likely as second coming

Colin Craig is talking about being open to political comeback. Is he that out of touch with reality?

Barry Soper at NZH: Colin Craig open to a political comeback

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has taken a hammering over the past week but if he is feeling the heat, he is not letting on – and is even considering a possible comeback.

“My concern has always been about conservative causes and serving conservative people. That’s something that matters to me … nothing has changed in that respect.

“If I got a chance to serve people, I’d be very happy to do that.”

Craig said the legal issues surrounding the defamation appeal will be considered before next year’s election and a comeback is possible.

Sounding chipper, he said if he can work with the party he founded, but spectacularly fell out with, he would be very happy to.

“My wife and I poured years of savings and time and energy into it and our love for the party and love for the members and supporters hasn’t changed.”

Earth to Colin: It. Is. Not. Going. To. Happen.

Craig’s political career is in non-resurrectable  tatters. This is in large part due to his own actions, but willingly aided and abetted by Jordan Williams and Whale Oil, who have made sure there is no chance of any comeback.

Leighton Baker, acting spokesman for the Conservatives, was last night cold on the idea Craig might get back into politics with the party.

“The Conservative Party aren’t offering Colin any positions. He’s never made any request to us for a position … and he does not hold a position with us, so no.”

When asked if Craig had damaged the Conservative Party brand, Baker said there was no doubt he had.

“It’s a struggle. The focus is on personalities and Colin Craig rather than the policies we stand for. So that’s a bit sad,” he said.

“Am I feeling positive? I’m not terribly encouraged today to tell you the truth, it’s been a rough day. But we’re Kiwis, we never say die, we’ll hang on for the next breath so we’ll keep on going.”

The Conservative Party can’t take back Craig, nor can they take any more of Craig’s money, without looking even worse than they are now.

Craig is finished in politics.

The Conservative Party currently appear to have no chance of coming back from this debacle, unless they inherit another rich ambitious person who doesn’t have the baggage or risks that Craig has.

A proper Conservative Party could establish a sizeable niche in New Zealand’s political mix.

An improper Colin Craig conservative party has crashed, burned and all that’s possible now is residual smouldering.

UPDATE: Newshub – Conservative Party doesn’t want Colin Craig back

“It’s not happening.”

With those words, the Conservative Party has perhaps dealt a blow to what remains of Colin Craig’s political ambitions.

The party’s founder and former leader hasn’t ruled out returning to politics once the dust from his legal battles settles. But it probably won’t be with the party he spent millions of dollars bringing to life.

“Colin Craig is not a member of the party, he has no position in the party, he hasn’t been offered a position in the party and he hasn’t asked for one, so it’s not happening,” board chairman Leighton Baker told Paul Henry on Tuesday.

“Colin resigned as a member of the party, so he’s got nothing to do with the party anymore.”

The party is struggling and may need to rebrand.

There’s a chance when the next election rolls around, they won’t even be calling themselves the Conservative Party anymore, the brand is so damaged.

“A lot of people have put that to us in the last couple of days, and as a board we’ll sit down and definitely have a look at that,” says Mr Baker.

“But at the end of the day New Zealand still needs a conservative voice, and at this stage we’re going to be it.”

With the election only about a year away, Mr Baker admits there’s even a chance they may not contest it.

“We haven’t sat down as a team yet and discussed it.”

Potential candidates are also a bit thin on the ground, with Mr Baker saying only a “few” of the 50 who stood in 2014 have expressed an interest in having another go.

Not surprising there is a lack of interest.


MacGregor found not to have breached confidentiality agreement

The Human Rights Review Tribunal decision (MacGregor v Craig [2016] NZHRRT 6) has determined that Rachel MacGregor did not breach the confidentiality agreement made with Colin Craig in a Human Rights Commission mediation process.

The decision found that Craig seriously breached the confidentiality agreement a number of times and made a record award of damages against Craig totalling $128,780.

The Tribunal acknowledged that it wasn’t unreasonable for Craig to assume MacGregor was involved in breaching the confidentiality agreement he later conceded that she hadn’t breached it herself, that had been done against her express wishes by Jordan Williams.

[7] A few weeks after the settlement Mr Craig became aware evidence relating to Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim had apparently come to the attention of some of the members of the Conservative Party Board. On 8 June 2015, in a media interview held in a sauna, Mr Craig was asked whether he had had an affair with Ms MacGregor. Other media enquiries in similar terms followed and a poem written by Mr Craig and sent by him to Ms MacGregor appeared on the Whale Oil blog.

[8] Believing Ms MacGregor was, contrary to her obligations under the settlement, leaking confidential documents sent to her by Mr Craig, Mr Craig decided to correct the information which had thus been made public. Rather than cancelling the settlement agreement Mr Craig embarked on a course of action which he knew would result in himself breaching the agreement. That course of action included calling a press conference on 22 June 2015, media interviews on the days which followed (23 and 24 June, 30 June and 10 July 2015) and distributing a letter to almost every member of the Conservative Party. In addition, on 29 July 2015 he held a further press conference to launch a booklet denouncing dirty politics and announcing legal action against Mr Cameron Slater (proprietor of the Whale Oil blog), Mr John Stringer (a member of the Conservative Party Board) and Mr Jordan Williams. The booklet was distributed widely throughout New Zealand.

[9] Mr Craig accepts that on each of these occasions he breached the confidentiality obligation in one way or another but claims justification for doing so on the grounds Ms MacGregor made misrepresentations during the mediation meeting and that Ms MacGregor herself, post 4 May 2015, disclosed confidential documents covered by the settlement. On 31 August 2015 (a month after the present proceedings were filed) Mr Craig purported to cancel the settlement agreement pursuant to s 7(3) of the Contractual Remedies Act 1979.

[47] In these circumstances we conclude the confidentiality stipulated in the “Mediation meeting confidentiality agreement” signed by Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig on 4 May 2015 and reinforced by s 85 of the Act covered all of the matters discussed and agreed to at the mediation meeting, specifically the sexual harassment claim, the financial issues, the settlement and the two components of that settleme

[53] It was against this background that Mr Craig at least initially argued (prior to Mr Jordan Williams giving evidence) that both prior to and during the mediation Ms MacGregor had not been truthful about what she had already disclosed to others about her sexual harassment claim and the persons to whom such disclosure had been made. In addition Mr Craig believed she and Mr Williams had been working in unison in leaking the confidential documents to the Board, media and others.

[54] However, in closing submissions it was conceded by Mr Craig there was no basis on which the Tribunal could find on the evidence given by Ms MacGregor and Mr Jordan Williams that Ms MacGregor had consented to the release of the documents relating to her sexual harassment complaint against Mr Craig. In our view this concession was properly made. Ms MacGregor was an honest witness whose evidence was largely supported by the evidence given by Mr Bevan and none of the witnesses who gave evidence claimed they had received confidential information from her. Indeed she declined to speak to the Board or to the media about the sexual harassment allegations and the circumstances of her resignation. We accept her evidence in its entirety.

[119] It is difficult to see any basis for criticising Ms MacGregor’s conduct. With the exception of the single tweet of 22 June 2015 (of which Mr Craig made nothing) she has at all times adhered to the settlement and confidentiality obligation. It was conceded by Mr Craig in closing there was no evidence to support his initial allegation that she consented to or assisted in the release to third parties of highly confidential documents relating to Mr Craig and her sexual harassment complaint. Even when provoked by the 22 June 2015 media conference, the responsible step taken by her was to issue (through Mr Bevan) a media release to the effect that because she was bound by the confidentiality agreement she would be unable to correct factual inaccuracies in Mr Craig’s statement until Mr Craig confirmed that should she do so he would not take legal action under the agreement.

[122] In mitigation his main points were:

[122.1] He did not cause the leak of confidential information which turned unsubstantiated rumour into what was purported to be documented fact. Mr Craig was the target of the leak and tried to defend himself in an unprecedented situation.

[122.2] The leak put him under enormous pressure as his political career and many friendships unravelled.

[122.3] His belief that the confidential material could not have ended up where it did without Ms MacGregor’s consent or at least tacit approval was understandable.

So while it is understandable that Craig was suspicious of MacGregor being involved in breaching the confidentiality agreement the Tribunal stated “We accept her evidence in its entirety”. 

Craig jumped to an incorrect conclusion, and his actions in response were inappropriate, they seriously breached the confidentiality agreement, and caused significant harm to MacGregor as a result.

MacGregor was a victim of this and was awarded record damages as a result.



MacGregor v Craig [2016] NZHRRT 6

Most of the media attention on the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision (MacGregor v Craig [2016] NZHRRT 6) is on the findings made against Colin Craig, and the damages awarded  to MacGregor totalling $128,780. This was the highest amount awarded by the NZHRRT. The maximum they can award is $200,000.

See Craig demolished by Tribunal decision.

There were several other significant aspects of the review. These have been detailed in separate posts:

  1. No decision on sexual harassment
  2. MacGregor found not to have breached confidentiality agreement
  3. Williams breached trust and confidentiality agreement

Links to decisions:

Scoop summarises the decision as related to Craig from a press release from Kensington Swan:

Craig demolished by Tribunal decision

Colin Craig took a hammering from the jury decision that ruled against him in the order of $1.27 million last week.

This week has started  with fewer dollars involved but no less legal condemnation.

Suppression was lifted today on a Human Rights tribunal decision after Rachel MacGregor claimed Craig had breached a confidentiality agreement after she had made a sexual harassment complaint against him.

The Tribunal ordered Mr Craig pay MacGregor $128,780 in damages, and costs of $100,000 were also agreed on.

It looks very bad for Craig, both on this and if it will have any influence on any appeal to reduce the defamation award against him that looks decidedly shaky too.

Whale Oil has extensive coverage so go there if you want all the nitty gritty:

Mr Craig breached the confidentiality obligations ‘repeatedly and intentionally’ (para 142.6)

The breaches were ‘deliberate, systematic, egregious and repeated’ (para 112)

‘Mr Craig is wealthy, well-connected and well-advised. At all times he has been in the more powerful position than Ms MacGregor. He has used his power and wealth to conduct a calculated campaign of breaches for the sole purpose of bolstering, or attempting to bolster, his own reputation. He has disregarded his obligations under the Human Rights Act and the settlement agreement’ (para 142.4)

‘Any steps he did take were motivated by self-interest’ (para 124)

‘The breaches occurred in the most public and damaging of circumstances’ (para 125)

– source Whale Oil

There’s also a couple of posts on the Conservative Party but their chances of recovery are about as low as Craig’s costs are high. Politics has been a very expensive exercise for him, and still counting – court proceedings under way could easily double the trouble.

Defamation – “there could be a chilling effect”

The huge amount that a jury awarded Jordan Williams in his defamation case against Colin Craig has raised quite a few eyebrows.

In Craig’s ‘breathtaking’ $1.3m defamation damages could set New Zealand record, says legal expert Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Bill Hodge has a warning:

Hodge, who has written a book on defamation, said the fallout from the case could be so wide-ranging it could even have a chilling effect on media.

“There could be a chilling effect. If I’m an editor and I’m looking at my energetic reporters who are out there investigating, I’m going to say ‘just be careful’,” he said.

“There could be chilling in the sense of taking a second look at things. Editorial judgments may err on the side of caution rather than a ‘go for it’ attitude.”

I’m sure media companies will be looking at this case with a lot of interest, and it may well prompt re-evaluations of stories where defamation could be a potential issue.

It should be of interest to anyone who publishes or posts online. I’ve been threatened with defamation more than once, so of course I have to note how the courts currently deal with defamation.

Posting a comment on Facebook or tweeting is far from the same scale as a country wide letter box drop but it doesn’t rule out someone threatening defamation and possible taking action. It could be justified, or it could be vexatious, but in either case it could become a costly nuisance.

I’m sure Andrew Little has at least one eyebrow raised over the Craig award, as he is currently facing defamation action. All politicians are likely to take an interest given that they seek publicity and often try to damage the reputations of others.

Taking defamation cases as far as court is still likely to be relatively rare due to the costs and the risks. As Williams found out even if you win you risk a lot of exposure and some of that may be adverse.

Defamation law is important, but it could easily escalate – Craig has threatened defamation a number of times in the past and  as well as the just finished (for now) case he is involved in several other actions both initiated by him and against him. I think it is feasible that Craig could succeed in claiming defamation against him, but also lose other cases due to a disproportionate response.

Hodge raises a valid concern about a possible chilling effect, but more than the effects on media and the extra care they may take about what they publish, the biggest chills may come if  defamation is used as a political weapon, a form of ‘dirty politics’ escalated.

Slater explains Craig’s appeal problem

Bill Hodge, expert on defamation, has called the award of $1.27 million in damages against Colin Craig as “breathtaking, eye-watering and mind-boggling” and that it is potentially a landmark moment in New Zealand defamation history.

NZH: Craig’s ‘breathtaking’ $1.3m defamation damages could set New Zealand record, says legal expert

A Kiwi defamation expert says the $1.3 million in damages former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been ordered to pay Jordan Williams is “breathtaking” and could make legal history.

In what could end up being the largest sum ever paid in a Kiwi defamation case, Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Bill Hodge says yesterday’s decision is a landmark moment.

Describing the $1.3m sum as incredible, Hodge predicts legal experts around the globe will be tracking the case – which he thinks is far from over.

“It’s breathtaking, eye-watering and mind-boggling. These are all the adjectives I would use to describe the amount,” Hodge said.

Hodge says he expects the Craig decision will also be appealed in a notoriously complex and expensive area of New Zealand law.

“There will be an appeal,” Hodge said. “The legal issues are extremely significant because it’s the equivalent of a self-defence response.

“It’s a difficult area, defences in defamation particularly. It needs further examination as to the extent that someone can ‘hit back’.

“My personal opinion is that the jury decided Craig went over the top with his response. He might have had a legitimate response if it was measured and in the appropriate form.

“It’s a bit like he was slapped by Jordan and he pulled out an automatic weapon and fired all his shots.”

Cameron Slater, who is lining up his own defamation case against Craig and I think has attended the whole of the proceedings in Williams v Craig, has posted a number of times on it since the jury announced their finding.

One of his best explanations of the problems Craig face with appealing the jury decision was actually in a comment on one of these posts, Why Colin Craig is pissing in the wind.

Here is the problem. The jury was given what is called a Question Trail. That is a trail of questions they need to answer in a logical manner to step them through the legal complexity of defamation law. The judge spent two hours summing up and directing the jury on how to use this Question trail to come to their decisions.

The Question Trail was drafted by Craig’s lawyer, then approved by Jordan’s lawyer and then finally by the Judge. Mills drafted the Question Trail to start with the defence if Qualified Privilege, then move to truth when that failed and then to honest opinion after that.

The Question trail contained 14 questions, and there were two counts so the jury had to step through 28 questions and write up their reasoning beside each one and hand that tot eh judge after the verdict was given.

The first few questions stepped through qualified privilege. They would not have been required to step through any more questions if the jury had considered qualified privilege and decided it applied. They clearly passed through those questions after quite some time…they deliberated for 10 hours.

They also stepped through the truth and honest opinion and came to the conclusion that Colin Craig HAD defamed Jordan Williams.

Further they considered the defamation to so extreme, so outrageous and so deliberate that they decided to award punitive damages against Craig.

When this gets to the Court of Appeal Craig is going to find the judges will look at the punitive damages and decided accordingly. Same with the qualified privilege argument. Mills knows they considered it, he would have known that after the jury retired for the night the first day. After that he would have been counselling his client to prepare for a loss.


Because in his closing argument he spent precisely two and half minutes explaining to the jury the truth defence, 5 minutes on honest opinion and a massive 40 minutes on qualified privilege. Craig was totally and utterly relying on qualified privilege.

For those who don’t know qualified privilege can be lost. Firstly if you were motivated by ill will in your response. The evidence was clear on that. Colin was motivated by ill will and the jury must have agreed.

I think ill will is still debatable. The jury does seem to have agreed that it was ill will, and I haven’t heard all the evidence, but I think Craig’s motivation is possible more complex than simple ill will.

The second was to lose qualified privilege is the breadth of the response. Jordan Williams spoke to about 5 people about Craig, Craig thought an appropriate response was to call him a liar in 1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide. Now you can see why the jury decided he lost qualified privilege.

While Hodge and a number of others have agreed that the 1.6 million pamphlets look like an inappropriate response – I have always thought they were an inappropriate response since they were sent out – I think the key is whether it was disproportionate enough to justify a massive award.

Slater understates Williams actions – “Jordan Williams spoke to about 5 people about Craig” omits a key detail, one of those who Williams spoke to and gave evidence to was Slater, and that is almost certain to have been in the knowledge that Slater would post about it on Whale Oil. In court it was claimed that Williams threatened exposure via Whale Oil when asking Conservative Party officials to dump Craig.

So the comparison is “1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide” versus “speaking to “about 5 people” plus publication on Whale Oil, which has a significant readership and Williams and Slater will have known and probably hoped that mainstream media would pick up what was posted about Craig and give it wider publicity.

“1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide” is still greater than posting on line and getting widespread news coverage, and Craig also sought news coverage through his press conference, but is quite a bit closer than Slater implies. Still inappropriate, over the top and quite possibly still over the legal line as far as defamation goes, but the degree of excessiveness could be debated in Court of Appeal, along with the amount of the damages.

That left truth as a defence, which was gone the moment you examine the Mr X interview. And honest opinion was forlorn as well.

Colin Craig will likely appeal this, but he is also likely to lose that appeal.

It sounds like Craig intends to appeal. If he does I think it’s quite likely it won’t be fully successful, but I think the chances of an adjustment in the amount of damages are quite high.

But Williams advantage is that he will start an appeal process from a very high point. Even if the award was halved or even quartered it would still be substantial, especially if costs are also awarded against Craig.

Also up for debate, although I don’t know whether this will be covered in any appeal, is what sort a reputation Williams had and how much it could be reduced by Craig’s actions. How much was Williams’ reputation damaged by what Craig published, versus how much his reputation was confirmed by what was revealed in Hager’s ‘Dirty Politics’ (which has never been tested in court) and what was revealed in court.

Both the legal actions and the debate on this are probably far from over.

High cost of civil justice

That a public spat over a woman is going to end up costing people millions of dollars seems quite remarkable. One person involved, Colin Craig, wanted to be a politician and the other, Jordan Williams, was a political activist/lobbyist, but the costs involved in seeking civil just (that at times was far from civil) are mind boggling.

Yesterday a jury awarded against Craig and for Williams an amount of $1.27 million. This seems certain to be appealed.

But substantial costs have already been incurred. Williams’ lawyer said his bill plus disbursements will be at least half a million dollars and could get towards a million. There are substantial court costs involved, including witness and jury expenses. Craig may also be ordered to pay that, and he may have clocked up similar sized bills in his defence.

Is it worth it? Rachel MacGregor and Craig’s wife may not think so.

Craig’s reputation is now in tatters, if it wasn’t already.

In defending his integrity Williams has exposed some less than favourable insights into his own behaviour.

It’s hard to see why all this trouble and cost was time and money well spent.

In the meantime there’s been a lot of comment on the jury’s verdict, some in support, some in surprise. I think that one of the better comments popped up at The Standard this morning from Cricklewood.

Thinking about the defamation case I can see how the jury reached their verdict as it were.
If you you are pretty much disengaged with politics (As many in NZ are with the possible exception of voting every three years) it’s highly likely you had never heard of Jordan Williams and only been vaguely aware of Colin Craig.

It would be very easy to decide that the massive mail out was the over response of a rich man effectively trying to destroy someone who had drawn attention to his less than ideal conduct. I suspect the jury felt it was an unfair over reaction from Craig and defamatory in that it brought Jordan Williams to the direct attention of 1.6million households calling him a liar when they vast majority would know nothing of him.

Obviously if you follow politics closely you would say that Craig had not defamed Williams based on his past behaviour the jury I imagine didn’t see it this way and decided based upon the info in the pamphlet been false.

I think many have been blinded by their political bias and in many cases by their focus on seeing it as a chance to deal to ‘dirty politics’ or to a rich politician abusing the power of his finances and his media access.

While there were many side issues and agendas the judge and the jury had to deal with defamation law as it stands. More Court examination may get closer to showing whether they got things reasonably right or not.

Regardless, the high cost of this so called civil justice is mind boggling. It’s hard to see value for money in it.

UPDATE: NZH Craig’s ‘breathtaking’ $1.3m defamation damages could set New Zealand record, says legal expert

A Kiwi defamation expert says the $1.3 million in damages former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been ordered to pay Jordan Williams is “breathtaking” and could make legal history.

In what could end up being the largest sum ever paid in a Kiwi defamation case, Auckland University Associate Professor of Law Bill Hodge says yesterday’s decision is a landmark moment.

Describing the $1.3m sum as incredible, Hodge predicts legal experts around the globe will be tracking the case – which he thinks is far from over.

“It’s breathtaking, eye-watering and mind-boggling. These are all the adjectives I would use to describe the amount,” Hodge said.

“There will be an appeal,” Hodge said. “The legal issues are extremely significant because it’s the equivalent of a self-defence response.

“It’s a difficult area, defences in defamation particularly. It needs further examination as to the extent that someone can ‘hit back’.

“My personal opinion is that the jury decided Craig went over the top with his response. He might have had a legitimate response if it was measured and in the appropriate form.

Hodge, who has written a book on defamation, said the fallout from the case could be so wide-ranging it could even have a chilling effect on media.

“There could be a chilling effect. If I’m an editor and I’m looking at my energetic reporters who are out there investigating, I’m going to say ‘just be careful’,” he said.

“There could be chilling in the sense of taking a second look at things. Editorial judgments may err on the side of caution rather than a ‘go for it’ attitude.”

Williams v Craig – $1.27m

The jury have found that Colin Craig defamed Jordan Williams (two  counts) and have awarded a total of $1.27 million.

On count one, the jury ordered $400,000 be paid in compensation caused for the injury to Williams’ reputation and feelings and $90,000 in punitive damages for Craig’s “flagrant disregard” of Jordan’s rights.

On count two, they ruled Craig pay $650,000 in compensation and $130,000 in punitive damages.

The verdict doesn’t surprise me but the amount of the awards does – however delivering 1.6 million booklets to almost every home in the country is unprecedented.

Craig has already indicated it will be subject to appeal, which was expected no matter what the outcome.

Craig has made a number of mistakes, including:

  1. Improper behaviour with his secretary, especially as a married man campaigning on family values.
  2. Not paying his secretary.
  3. Having an interview in a sauna.
  4. Breaching a confidentiality agreement a number of times.
  5. Arranging a media conference and accusing people of lying.
  6. Posting 1.6 million booklets to households throughout the country accusing people of lying.
  7. Threatening to sue people for defamation.
  8. Not retracting his accusations and avoiding going to court when sued.
  9. Using Martyn Bradbury as a witness (that was apparently significant).

As I understand it the jury needed to decide whether Craig had made untrue accusations, and whether his response to accusations were a fair fightback or excessive, and whether there was malice involved.

There have been claims this is the largest award ever but metcalph at Kiwiblog details these awards:

Prior defamation awards:

  • Michael Stiassny & Firm $900,000 against Vince Siemer
  • Joe Karam #535,000 against Parker and Burkis
  • Quinn $1.5 million against the Holmes Show, cut back to $900,000 on appeal.

Nick R:

Court of Appeal can reduce any award of damages it considers to be manifestly excessive. It has done so before for jury awards in defamation cases. The CA has previously indicated that damages in defamation cases in NZ should be modest in the absence of evidence of actual pecuniary loss. That’s why I expect them to reduce this award, potentially by quite a lot.

So this is a big win for Williams, a severe blow for Craig, others in line for legal action against Craig are rubbing their hands together, and this is far from the end of it.

Anything could happen yet. I presume this doesn’t rule out Craig also suing Williams for defamation, but I don’t know if that is likely or likely to succeed.

UPDATE: RNZ – No regrets about sending out leaflet – Colin Craig

…and he says he would do it all again. That doesn’t sound like a sensible public reaction from Craig. Interviews with both Craig and Williams’ lawyer at the link. Peter McKnight:

Mr Craig’s comments could be further defaming Mr Williams, he said.

Judge hands Williams v Craig over to jury

The judge summed up the Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation trial this morning and then handed over to the jury to deliberate for the afternoon. They have now taken a break for the night.

NZ Herald: Judge sums up in Colin Craig defamation trial

Before the jury were sent to decide if Colin Craig defamed Jordan Williams, they were told to decide if the politician was fairly responding to an attack, if he believed what he said was the truth or his honest opinion.

In her summing up of more than three weeks of evidence, Justice Sarah Katz told the 11 jurors the key point of the case was Craig’s motive when he said Williams was dishonest, deceitful and lacked integrity.

The two allegedly defamatory actions the jury must deliberate are Craig’s remarks at a press conference and a leaflet about Williams sent to 1.6 million households.

For each of the two actions, the jury must decide whether Williams had proved that, because of Craig, his reputation was lowered in the eyes of an ordinary and right-thinking member of society or if he was exposed to ridicule or hatred.

If so, Justice Katz asked them if they believed the former Conservative Party leader was appropriately responding to an attack on his character after Williams revealed Craig had been sexually harassing his former press secretary.

Or was Craig predominantly motivated by ill-will and did he want to hurt Williams?

Justice Katz told the jury that if, on the balance of probabilities – which is the standard of proof in a civil case – they believed the former, then the defence of qualified privilege applied and they should rule in favour of Craig.

“That will be the end of the matter.”

However, if they decided Craig was predominantly motivated by ill-will and wanted to harm Williams then they must move to whether what he said was the truth or his honest opinion, based on facts.

And if they get through all the defences for both the remarks and the leaflet and if they decide none of them were proven, then the 11 jurors must rule on what damages Craig has to pay Williams for the “injury to his reputation and the injury to his feelings”.

What the jury must decide:

For each of the two actions Craig allegedly defamed Williams by: what he said at the press conference and what he published in the leaflet.

• If yes, then they must move to:
• Was Craig appropriately responding to an earlier attack by Williams on the politician’s character or was he motivated by hurting Williams?
• Was Craig telling the truth?
• Was Craig expressing his honest opinion?
• If all are no, then they must decide how much Craig should pay Williams for the injury to his reputation and feelings.
• The jury must be unanimous.

So was Craig’s reaction a reasonable way to deal with what he felt was an attack on him and his party, or did he take it too far? That’s up to the jury to decide.

The Herald reported that the judge said the $1.34 million total Williams sought was a ceiling and not a target, but another report said they couldn’t award more than $400 thousand.

I think it’s fine for a jury to decide whether they believe defamation is proven or not, but I find  that deciding on an amount that could be hundreds and thousands of dollars a bit strange. I presume the judge has given them good indications of how to go about deciding, if they get that far.

For detailed information on defamation law:

Defamation case judgments:

Examples of damages:

1994: A jury awarded $375,000 (about $575,000 in 2016) to a journalist who was repeatedly implied by a magazine to have a drinking problem. Subsequently, the parties settled the dispute for $100,000 (about $155,000 in 2016).

1996: A jury awarded $1.5 million (about $2.18 million in 2016) to a member of Auckland Trotting Club for two TV broadcasts in 1990 that made allegations of horse doping and serious financial irregularities. Subsequently, a judge lowered the amount to $650,000 (about $950,000 in 2016).

2000: A jury awarded $675,000 (about $930,000 in 2016) to a musician who was described by a newspaper as unprofessional and greedy following the musician’s performance at an All Blacks-Springboks test. A High Court Judge upheld the award.

2008: A judge awarded $900,000 (about $1 million in 2016) to a businessman and his firm for repeated allegations on a website and on billboards of a receiver’s business practices and conduct. The Court of Appeal upheld the award.

2013: A jury awarded $270,000 to a businessman for allegations in a book written by the man’s ex-wife’s containing allegations of his sexual perversion.

2014: A judge awarded $535,000 to a businessman and former All Black for allegations published that he was dishonest, a crook, and had improperly manipulated a murder trial.