Williams v Craig defamation retrial ordered

The legal war of attrition looks set to continue in the defamation  battle between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig.

Stuff:  Colin Craig wins latest defamation duel with Jordan Williams, retrial ordered

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has won a retrial of the case in which he was accused of defaming Jordan Williams.

The bitter and hard-fought case between Craig and Williams, the executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which on Thursday found the High Court jury had been materially misdirected and the case should be run again.

In the first High Court case a jury had found overwhelmingly for Williams and awarded him $1.27 million in damages.

The damages sum was all that Williams had claimed and set a record for defamation awards in New Zealand.

But the High Court judge said it was excessive, set it aside, and ordered a retrial of both the size of the award and whether Williams had been defamed at all.

The Court of Appeal refused to reinstate the damages but said only the part of the case that dealt with damages should be reheard.

Williams was at the Supreme Court in Wellington to hear its 3-2 majority decision delivered. Later he said he would not comment on the decision. Craig could not be contacted.

Neither Williams nor Craig have come out of the initial attacks by Williams via Whale Oil and counter attack via media and mass mail out by Craig, or the 4 week defamation trial, or the subsequent court actions with their reputations enhanced – to the contrary.

And they have added substantially too their loss of reputation by huge and mounting costs.

Decision: https://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/craig-v-williams/@@images/fileDecision?r=564.327631828

What Whale Oil isn’t telling their readers

Whale Oil is feeding misinformation to it’s readers about the defamation cases that Cameron Slater is embroiled in, and they are not telling them the facts that would enlighten readers to the grim reality of legal and financial holes dug by Slater himself. Claims that vexatious litigants have dragged out the cases are in some cases at least the opposite of the truth.

Particularly in the six and a half year Blomfield v Slater defamation it is Slater who has opposed, appealed, dragged things out, and failed to file a defence after numerous attempts (which appear to be mostly trying to continue the attacks against Blomfield).

Whale Oil is not being open and honest about the facts of the three cases involving Slater. And I haven’t seen them reveal at all that the company that owns Whale Oil, Social media Consultants, is also included in court actions.

As a result, comments like this are being posted at Whale Oil:

No other journalist in NZ has so many honest people behind him.

Karma will get them in the end, and the continued growth of WOBH will ensure increasing numbers of people get to hear what’s really going on.

You might have been temporary lost in some of the battles, but you will win the war.

Some people are so vindictive they just can’t let go.

I was wondering how many court cases were still pending and how that was going to be handled. I know you would rather fight on and take it to them, but I’m certain that you are getting the right advice, health comes first.

You’ve been brutally fearless and a force of nature on the political landscape.
Stay fearless and apply those traits in your recovery.

It’s too bad that those responsible for this, the vexatious litigants, will never face the costs they should do.

As for the litigants not giving extra time, have they not dragged this on for years already?

That’s more forthright than you normally expect, these days. Our martyr for free speech. Makes one want to join the Whale army, if it exists.

A lot of irony in there. And misconceptions and/or sock puppet misinformation.

Is it possible to tell us without too much detail just who the litigants are on the three outstanding actions?

Whale Oil is keeping the facts from their readers.

Yesterday in An update on Cam’s health ‘Whaleoil staff’ claimed:

This has led Cam to make the very difficult decision to declare bankruptcy, since he is unable to generate enough passive revenue to fund the three extremely expensive and in his opinion, vexatious, defamation actions against him.

They are right that the actions are likely to be extremely expensive. Costs alone are likely to add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars – Slater himself has previously said that’s the likely cost of defamation defences.

But court documents suggest that if anyone has been vexatious, or bringing costs upon himself, it is Slater.

From ( (pre-defamation trial) SELLMAN & ORS v SLATER & ORS NO 5 – COSTS [2018] NZHC 58 [7 February 2018] in which Slater was first defendant, and the plaintiffs were were Sellman, Swinburn and Frederick:

It is a fundamental principle of New Zealand civil law that costs follow the event – a losing party pays a winning party a contribution towards their legal costs. The question of who has won and who has lost is guided by the interests of justice and must be viewed in terms of “who in reality has been the successful party”.

Overall, I consider the plaintiffs  did enjoy substantive success.

The time-bar strike-out applications by all five defendants involved argument about, and determination of, a relatively untested aspect of New Zealand defamation law, based on policy considerations. But the applications all failed. I award costs to the plaintiffs in respect of this aspect of the applications on a 2B basis.

The abuse of process strike-out applications also failed…On a net basis, accordingly, I award costs to the plaintiffs, in respect of this aspect of the applications, of 90 per cent against the first defendant and 80 per cent against the second and third defendants.

Assuming, as I do for this purpose, that each of the three aspects of the strikeout applications of the proceeding by the first, second and third defendants were of equal weight, the result is that I award to costs to the plaintiffs of 93 per cent of the costs for the first defendant’s strike out application…I discount each award by a third. So the first defendant will pay 62 per cent.

The first, and the second and third defendants’ applications to strike out the ss 39 and 41 notices simply failed. They will each pay two thirds of the costs of that to the plaintiffs on a 2B basis.

All defendants will pay the costs of the one-and-a-half-day hearing and the plaintiffs’ disbursements jointly and severally.

So costs were awarded against Slater in failed actions. Slater was represented by two lawyers so presumably would have accrued costs of his own too.

From SELLMAN v SLATER [2018] NZHC 3057 [23 November 2018]:

Should Mr Slater and Mr Graham be examined?

[60] I have examined Mr Slater’s and Mr Graham’s answers to interrogatories. I am concerned their statements that Whaleoil did not publish blogposts for reward are not consistent with the evidence to which the plaintiffs point, which suggests that was done in specific instances. They are inconsistent with reasonable inferences from the emails obtained by the plaintiffs. And they are inconsistent with Mr Graham belatedly accepting he did do so in respect of blog posts about Mr Clague once evidence of that was adduced. I am also concerned a number of other aspects of the interrogatories may not have been properly responded to, regarding: who was the author of the blog posts; the involvement of each of the defendants in their preparation; downloading of blog posts; authorship of the comments; and payments received. I consider Mr Slater and Mr Graham have made insufficient answer to the interrogatories.

[61] I consider the most efficient means to elicit answers to the plaintiffs’ questions is for Mr Slater and Mr Graham to attend Court for up to one day to be orally examined.

Slater has provided inconsistent insufficient answers and is being called to appear in a court hearing to answer questions.

It looks to me that either through evasiveness or incompetence (or both) Slater is prolonging the action.

Mr Henry advised at the hearing that Mr Slater would have to file a new amended statement of defence to substitute the new public interest defence for qualified privilege.

Similarly, the application to strike out affirmative defences falls away with the filing and impending filing of new affirmative defences. I record that, if the previous sets of pleadings by Mr Slater, Mr Graham and FCL had remained extant, I do not consider they should have been struck out but they would have needed to be amended to provide greater specificity of particulars in relation to the defences.

More insufficient information and changing defences.

Discovery

Mr Slater, Mr Graham and FCL will provide further particular discovery to the plaintiffs and other defendants, within 15 working days of this judgment

Costs

If costs cannot be agreed between the parties they have leave to file written submissions of no more than five pages within 10 working days of the date of the judgment

So Slater appears to be responsible for ongoing delays and further court appearances, and is incurring further costs.

A telephone conference was scheduled for this case in the High Court yesterday, the same day that Whale Oil posted:

The prospect of on-going ill health and potential further strokes means the advice of his medical team, lawyer, accountant, family members and those who, due to his incapacity, would have been appointed his guardians ad litem, is for him to completely withdraw from any activity other than rehabilitation.

It’s understandable that Slater would want to withdraw from any ongoing court actions, but I don’t know if the judge will buy it.

From CRAIG v SLATER [2018] NZHC 2712 [19 October 2018], just prior to Slater having a stroke, claiming media stress (Slater is first defendant, Social Media Consultants is second defendant):

RESULT AND ORDERS

I declare under s 24 of the Defamation Act 1992 that Cameron Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited are liable to Colin Craig in defamation for the untrue statements…

I dismiss Mr Slater’s causes of action in defamation against Mr Craig by way of counterclaim.

So Slater failed in his defence, and he also failed in his counter claim against Craig.

Costs

[655] Rule 14.2 of the High Court Rules 2016 provides as a primary principle that a party who fails with respect to a proceeding should pay costs to the party who succeeds.  The rule also provides that an award of costs should reflect the complexity and significance of the proceeding. Bearing in mind that each of the parties has both succeeded and failed in the proceeding in varying degrees, and having regard to the complexity and significance of the proceeding, it will be obvious that the determination of costs will require careful consideration by the parties and by the Court.

Due to his failed counter claim it looks unlikely that Slater will be awarded any costs, and may have substantial costs awarded against him.

From Blomfield v Slater [2018] NZHC 2781 [26 October 2018] (Slater first defendant, Social media Consuktants second defendant):

[139] It is therefore apparent that the defendants took no heed whatsoever of the description provided by Lang J in his judgment of 18 May 2018 as to the pleading requirements for the defences of truth and honest opinion. In the circumstances it is clear that the defendants have chosen to adopt the general and unspecific approach later taken in the 3ASOD pleading those defences.

[140] By adopting this approach, the defendants have entirely failed to plead any facts and circumstances relied on to support their defences of truth and honest opinion.

[142] Accordingly, in the absence of any proper particulars that would enable the trial to proceed in a focused and orderly manner, I ruled that the defendants may not adduce any evidence directed at advancing the defences of truth and honest opinion…

[144] The proposed evidence clearly contains opinions and conclusions that the first defendant cannot offer as admissible evidence…

Conclusion

[147] The effect of my judgments is to preclude the defendants from adducing any evidence directed at supporting the defences of truth and honest opinion, as well as any evidence directed at showing the plaintiff to be a person of bad reputation. This unusual situation is the direct consequence of the defendants’ failure to plead their case in accordance with the requirements for pleading the defences of truth and honest opinion and the requirements for adducing evidence directed at establishing bad reputation. The defendants have had considerable time and a number of opportunities to get their pleadings in order, leading to the Court giving them a final opportunity to replead their defences in May 2018. Despite this leniency, and the impending trial
fixture, the defendants failed to properly plead their defences in the 3ASOD and it was not until the trial was a fortnight or so away that they took steps to apply to file a further amended pleading that significantly recast their case yet still failed to comply with the requirements of pleading. Then, when that application was dismissed and the trial was to commence, they applied again to file a yet further amended pleading which also significantly recast their case and contained numerous deficiencies in pleading.

After six and a half years Slater could not put up a credible defence. This played out in court mid October last year, with the judgment being given just prior to Slater having a stroke claimed to be due to stress from media.

[148] Although the effect of my rulings and judgments may appear harsh, this outcome underlines the importance of proper pleading and of compliance with procedural rules and timetable orders. In this case the defendants’ failure to comply with those requirements have resulted in them placing themselves in the situation in which they now find themselves.

“defendants’ failure to comply with those requirements have resulted in them placing themselves in the situation in which they now find themselves” – not due to vexatious litigants, due to hopeless defendants.

Both an award of damages and awards of costs are yet to be determined.

From Blomfield v Slater [2018] NZHC 171 [15 February 2019]:

[20] Here there is no concern that the reasons judgment contains any confidential information of the defendants, nor any information that would be likely to adversely affect the defendants’ fair trial interests if released for publication. While it is likely that publication of the results judgment may be unwelcome and somewhat embarrassing for the defendants, those consequence arise from the manner in which they themselves, particularly the first defendant, have conducted these proceedings during the past six-and-a-half years.

Again the responsibility for his predicament is Slater’s.

[24] I decline to determine the costs on the interlocutory applications brought by the defendants at this time.

Deferred pending an appeal.

[25] I direct that the Registrar recover $12,800 of the balance owing for Court fees from the defendants. The remaining $1,600 (unless it has already been paid by the time of this judgment) is to be recovered from the plaintiff.

Yesterday following the post on Whale Oil, Blomfield responded via NZ Herald:  Cameron Slater’s stroke – what defamation victim Matt Blomfield says the evidence shows about the blogger’s health

The businessman who successfully battled Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater over defamation claims the blogger’s claim ill-health drove him to bankruptcy is contrary to evidence and should be treated with suspicion.

Matt Blomfield told the Herald he was basing his view on evidence which had emerged during the final stages of the seven-year defamation battle.

He said he was making the details public over concern Slater was attempting to gain sympathy from the public and seek donations from readers, as he has done over the course of the prolonged court case.

Blomfield said the High Court ruling was followed by Slater filing with the Court of Appeal then seeking to delay the subsequent hearing on the basis of ill-health.

He said Slater was then obliged by the court to provide evidence supporting his claims around his health and “that evidence simply didn’t support his application”.

“He has told the public he had two strokes, but the evidence showed he had only had one. He keeps repeating the fact that the stroke was caused by stress and that he must now avoid stress.

“However, the medical evidence is that his particular stroke has nothing to do with stress and he is in no more danger of another stroke due to stress than any other person.

“He claimed to have cognitive and language impairment because of his stroke, but the evidence showed he had none.

“He claimed to be too incapacitated to communicate with his lawyers, but he was simultaneously engaging in political discussions in the comments section of the Whale Oil website.”

Slater was commenting on Whale Oil soon after he had his stroke, and continued for months until recently.

Blomfield said the Court of Appeal gave Slater until February 22 to provide evidence supporting his claims of ill-health.

“He filed no response at all. Instead, he applied for bankruptcy. He is now saying his proceedings need to be halted for that reason.

“He is doing everything he can to avoid the consequences of his own nefarious actions.”

Blomfield said “this will not work” and a full Court of Appeal hearing next month would rule based on the evidence.

So Slater failed to file evidence of ill health to the Court of Appeal, but instead unsubstantiated claims were made on Whale Oil yesterday, with most of the facts of the cases again omitted.

As well as the misinformation and misleading, Whale Oil seems to be in denial of reality. Comments from yesterday’s post:

He really sees that as a good thing? ‘Nige’ is one of the site managers. I wonder how much information  he has been given – I mean facts rather than fiction and fantasy.

The second last word from ‘Whaleoil staff’:

Contrary to many naysayers’ opinions, the Whaleoilsite is continuing to grow and expand. This is very similar to the way Breitbart survived its founder Andrew Breitbart’s death. Whaleoil has become very much bigger than just Cam. Unlike Breitbart, when and if Cam’s health allows, he will return to the site, subject entirely to his medical team’s clearance.

Deluded.

Victim complex at Whale Oil

It’s not just Cameron Slater and SB who play the victim card hard at Whale Oil. Some of the remaining support crew there are joining the loyal cry baby choir, making claims that are closer to the reverse of what has actually been happening.

From Comment of the day today (from ‘George’):

Have you ever asked yourself why the left, in cohorts with the MSM, exert so much energy, time and resource, both legally and illegally, attempting to discredit and silence Whale Oil Beef Hooked?

I will tell you why. Because we are “Focusing on what matters to us”. So next time the media asks you whether you read Whaleoil, don’t be intimidated by association. That’s playing into the left’s objective of silencing opposing views. They fear Whaleoil because it represents a real opposition to their ideological cancer. You are either for us or against us. Get off the fence and “Focus on what matters to us”.

I don’t see the left or the media spend much energy, time and resource attempting to discredit Whale Oil. Most of the discrediting of Whale Oil has come from the right of politics, and from a sole blog operating outside the mainstream media. Slater, Lusk and Ross (and a few others) have inflicted the most blows to credibility at Whale Oil.

“Focusing on what matters to us” – not unusual for a blog. That’s what just about all of them do.

I doubt there many in the media going around asking people if they read Whale Oil. Why would they? Curiosity about who has survived there, and why curiosity about why they remain loyal? That would be kind of interesting, but most people, and most of the mainstream media’s audience, don’t know about or don’t care about political blogs.

Who has been legally challenging Whale Oil? It doesn’t seem to be the media. The legal challenges I have seen have been:

  • The police, who successfully prosecuted Slater on five counts of breaches of court non-publication orders (suppression).
  • The police, who charged Slater with attempting to procure an illegal hacking of a left wing blog (The Standard).
  • Colin Craig, who sued Slater for defamation. The court found that Slater had defamed Craig, but no damages were awarded. Craig is not left wing.
  • Matthew Blomfield, who sued Slater for defamation (and appears to have been successful). I’m not aware of any political preferences involved there, the campaign against Blomfield on Whale Oil was due to a business relationship turning sour.
  • Dr Doug Sellman, Dr Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook are currently suing Slater for defamation as a result of an attack campaign on Whale Oil. The biggest issue here seems to be whether the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council paid PR company owner Carrick Graham and/or to Slater attack the academics. There appears to be no direct link to politics.

I don’t see any sign of the media being a party to any of these legal proceedings apart from reporting on some of them some of the time.

There are some legal proceedings involving Slater and media:

  • Slater was an informant and a witness in a failed private prosecution of APN Limited and Lynn Prentice  – Slater and Dermot Nottingham were trying to silence NZ Herald and The Standard blog.
  • Slater was an informant and nmed as a witness in a failed private prosecution of llied Press limited and myself – Slater and Nottingham were trying to silence Otago Daily Times and Your NZ.
  • Slater was associated with a failed attempt by marc Spring to silence Your NZ.

So Slater has been actively involved in trying to silence opposing views, the reverse of what ‘George’ claims.

“The left’s objective of silencing opposing views” is a topical issue, but Whale Oil doesn’t figure in that debate, which is mostly raging on the left.

There’s probably more people who fear tadpoles than fear Whale Oil.

“You are either for us or against us” – funny. I think this is a risky way of trying to consolidate some sort of power base. There are shrinking numbers at Whale Oil, and it is increasingly common to see challenges to the activist aims there, especially when anti-National. Trying to run an ‘us versus them’ campaign will likely alienate more of the remaining stalwarts.

Whale Oil is a victim of sorts – of their own failures. Making ludicrous claims while claiming to be victims just damages their own credibility further, if that were possible.

Setbacks for Slater, Graham in defamation proceedings

Cameron Slater has been the defendant in three defamation proceedings.

Versus Colin Craig a recent judgment found that Slater had defamed Craig but Craig had harmed his own reputation and no costs would be awarded to either. Craig has indicated he will appeal this decision.

Also recently Matthew Blomfield finally (after 6 years trying) got Slater to trial. It appears that later had little or no defence and could potentially face substantial costs, but that is all happening behind the scenes.

And the third proceeding has come up in the courts and news, still pre-trial. Newsroom: Whaleoil and Peters’ lawyer suffer court setbacks

The Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater has lost a bid to have hacked documents obtained by author Nicky Hager excluded from a High Court defamation case.

Slater, and a co-defendant Carrick Graham the son of former national minister Sir Douglas Graham, have also been ordered to front-up in court ahead of the defamation hearing to answer questions from the lawyers for the three health professionals who are suing them for defamation.

Justice Matthew Palmer ordered the cross examination in the court room because Slater and Graham had not cooperated satisfactorily with the written questioning from lawyers for medical researchers Doug Sellman, Boyd Swinburn and Shane Bradbrook.

Justice Palmer’s decisions were the latest setbacks for Slater and his lawyer Brian Henry, the longtime barrister for New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, in the defamation case.

The three health professionals sued Slater, Graham, ex National MP Katherine Rich and her Food and Grocery Council for defamation after Hager’s Dirty Politics book revealed emails and communications linking the defendants in blog posts critical of the three men.

NZ Herald: Hacked emails allowed in Cameron Slater cash for comment defamation case – judge

Blogger Cameron Slater, lobbyist Carrick Graham and former MP Katherine Rich have failed in their bid to have hacked emails excluded from a defamation case.

The High Court has also ruled that Slater and Graham will have to take the stand to be “orally examined” during trial, as their written answers so far have been “inconsistent”.

And all three defendants have been ordered to provide more paperwork to the plaintiffs – a trio of health experts – particularly around what payment agreements were made between them.

Slater, who writes the WhaleOil blog, is accused of being paid to write the posts by ex-National MP Rich through her employer the Food and Grocery Council (NZFGC).

They accuse Graham, son of the former National cabinet minister Sir Douglas Graham, of being the middle man.

Previously, the defendants tried to get the case struck out, but the court declined.

A jury trial should go ahead next year; High Court Judge Matthew Palmer issued a second judgement on preliminary matters before trial today.

In it, the judge declined Slater’s application to exclude hacked documents obtained by the plaintiffs from Nicky Hager – the author of Dirty Politics – at this stage.

He also said the defendants had not complied with discover. While Slater disclosed 32 documents, other than blog posts, including 27 individual emails to or from Rich – there was no evidence of payments received and only one document containing data from the Whale Oil website.

Graham disclosed 172 documents including four emails from Slater and 114 emails to or from Rich or NZFGC. None of the discovered emails to or from Rich pre-dated the publication of Dirty Politics, the judge said.

Rich and NZFGC disclosed around 1200 documents, including 24 items of correspondence with Graham. No correspondence with Slater was included.

The judge said there were grounds for believing Slater and Graham had not provided some documents, and requested they be provided.

Some documents about payments were included, revealing the fact Graham’s company received $365,814 from NZFGC over about five years.

But he wanted a more precise account of the terms and scope of services between Rich and/or the NZFGC and Slater or Graham including any associated documents.

He said the hacked emails would not be struck out because he was not persuaded they were not genuine.

After examining Graham and Slater’s answers to interrogatories, the judge said he was concerned their statements that WhaleOil did not publish blogposts for reward were “not consistent” with the plaintiff’s evidence.

“They are inconsistent with reasonable inferences from the emails obtained by the plaintiffs,” the judgment said.

In other words, the judge has concerns that Slater and Graham have not provided documents under discovery that they should have – and it seems that hacked emails provide evidence suggesting that they haven’t complied. This could be a serious matter, hence the call to answer to the court at a hearing.

“I am also concerned a number of other aspects of the interrogatories may not have been properly responded to, regarding: who was the author of the blog posts; the involvement of each of the defendants in their preparation; downloading of blog posts; authorship of the comments; and payments received. I consider Mr Slater and Mr Graham have made insufficient answer to the interrogatories. “

He said the pair would be required to take the stand for up to an hour during trial.

An important question to be answered is whether Slater, or the company he is director of and jointly owns with his wife Juana Atkins, Social Media Consultants Limited, have been paid to post hit jobs. Nicky Hager suggested money haad been paid in his book Dirty Politics.

Meanwhile possibly not coincidentally and somewhat at odds with what the judge is saying, on Wednesday at Whale Oil:  Whaleoil is not free and telling the truth costs

To continue to service our Oiler community with real-life get-togethers and interesting and entertaining content we have had to think outside of the box as telling the truth can have legal consequences that put a massive strain on the blog’s finances.

Embellishing the truth and making up allegations are more likely to have legal consequences, and can be far more costly.

We don’t want to put out the begging bowl so have instead been working hard on finding alternative revenue streams that give our supporters something fantastic in return.

All this litigation is expensive, even without awards of costs and damages.

It can also be a strain on well being. As far as I know this is till undisclosed at Whale Oil, and Slater’s sudden absence from posts and comments a couple of weeks ago is still unexplained (the absence of curiosity or comment about his absence in comments is very odd).

I have heard claims that Slater may have suffered from one or two strokes and is to some extent incapacitated. Perhaps WO management thinks that telling the truth about this will be expensive if it adversely effects fundraising. Perhaps spanish bride can explain the truth when she reads this.

UPDATE:

 

 

Colin Craig guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment

Another court has found Colin Craig guilty of sexual harassment of his ex-Conservative party assistant Rachel MacGregor.

Justice Toogood: “the seriousness of the harassment is aggravated by its origins in an abuse of power in a workplace relationship. I assess the sexual harassment as moderately serious.”

Craig continues to deny that de sexually harassed MacGregor. From NZH: Judge rules Cameron Slater defamed Colin Craig who sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor

In a statement, Craig said he was “pleased but not surprised” by the court’s decision.

But he also maintained he had not sexually harassed anyone.

“I was disappointed by a finding that I had done so on two occasions,” he said.

Craig had written poems and letters to MacGregor, which he claimed were received with positive responses at the time.

“This is a perplexing outcome,” Craig said.

“If someone tells you it’s a great letter and they are re-reading and re-reading it, I think a normal person would consider the letter welcomed.”

I find it perplexing that Craig cannot understand or accept what he has done. He was in a party leader/employer position of unequal power and abused that.

From Justice Toogood’s SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS AND DECISIONS:

[17] For the reasons set out below, I have found that:

(a) It is not established that Mr Craig was guilty of sexual harassment of Ms MacGregor up to and including the incident on election night 2011 when there was intimacy between them, because I am not satisfied that Mr Craig’s behaviour was unwanted by Ms MacGregor at that time.

(b) It is true that Mr Craig was guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment of Ms MacGregor, on multiple occasions from early 2012 to 2014 by telling her that he remained romantically inclined and sexually attracted to her, and that those expressions of his views were not welcomed by Ms MacGregor at the time they were communicated to her. Ms MacGregor chose not to complain about the harassment because of her concern about the effect of a complaint on her
employment.

(c) The imputation that Mr Craig sent “dirty text messages” to Ms MacGregor is not strictly true, but it is materially true in substance in that he sexually harassed Ms MacGregor by communicating to her sexually oriented written messages between early 2012 and 2014 that were unwelcome.

(d) The imputation that Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor so seriously that he settled the sexual harassment claim by paying her a six-figure sum of money is not strictly true, but it is materially true in substance in that he provided Ms MacGregor with a substantial financial benefit in exchange for her agreeing she would not pursue a justifiable claim that Mr Craig had been guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment.

[455] I infer from the timing of Ms MacGregor’s submission of the sexual harassment complaint to the Human Rights Commission on the day of her resignation that her distaste for Mr Craig’s sexual overtures was both genuine and an operative factor in her decision to resign when she did. I do not accept that the formal complaint to the Commission was contrived as a device to give her leverage in inevitable negotiations over a settlement of her pay claims

[457] Mr Craig’s continuing indications after 2011 that he retained a romantic interest and sexual attraction were unwanted by Ms MacGregor and wrong. I have found that Ms MacGregor chose not to complain about the harassment because of concern about the effect of a complaint on her employment. Although the manner of the harassment was not at the higher end of the scale of seriousness, it had serious consequences for Ms MacGregor in that it was an operative factor in the loss of her job, and Mr Craig’s post-resignation behaviour aggravated the harm she suffered.

Moreover, as I have held, the seriousness of the harassment is aggravated by its origins in an abuse of power in a workplace relationship. I assess the sexual harassment as moderately serious.

[459] It is proper and reasonable to infer that the overall financial settlement, including the benefits that that were not related to her pay claim, influenced Ms MacGregor’s decision to withdraw her sexual harassment claim. I accept her evidence that she would not have settled the sexual harassment claim without also resolving her pay claim and the issue of her debt to Mr and Mrs Craig. That means that, although no payment directly related to the sexual harassment claim was made, Mr Craig made a substantial financial settlement with Ms MacGregor in exchange for the withdrawal of her sexual harassment claim to the Human Rights Commission

The statement that Mr Craig paid Ms MacGregor a six-figure sum is not true, but the material element of the allegation – the sting – is that Mr Craig provided Ms MacGregor with a substantial financial benefit in exchange for her not pursuing a justifiable claim that he had been guilty of sexual harassment. The  potentially damaging aspects were the inference that serious sexual harassment had occurred and the inference, available from his agreement to a financial settlement, that Mr Craig acknowledged the complaint was well-founded. I have found that, in fact, the harassment was moderately serious.

[460] Taking the statement as a whole, I am satisfied that it has been proved that the third imputation, in substance, was not materially different from the truth in substance in that Mr Craig provided Ms MacGregor with a substantial financial benefit in exchange for her agreeing she would not pursue a justifiable claim that he had been guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment.

[520] For the reasons given in relation to Publication 1, I find:

(a) The imputation that Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor is true.

(b) The imputation that he sexually harassed her so seriously that he settled her sexual harassment claim by paying her a large sum of money many tens of thousands of dollars more than what he had told the board of the Conservative Party he paid her, was materially true in substance. Mr Craig provided Ms MacGregor with a substantial financial benefit in exchange for her not pursuing a justifiable claim that Mr Craig had been guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment and misled the board intentionally about the true nature of his behaviour with and towards Ms MacGregor, the foundation and merits of Ms MacGregor’s allegations against him, and the true nature of the settlement with her.

(c) The imputation that Mr Craig sent Ms MacGregor numerous sexually explicit text messages, which were unsolicited and a form of sexual harassment is materially true in substance, in that he sexually harassed Ms MacGregor by communicating to her sexually oriented written messages that were unwelcome.

So that is a fairly comprehensive finding of sexual harassment as an employer.

Alison Mau (Stuff):  Colin Craig defamation case breaks new ground for victims of sexual harassment

In his ruling as to whether blogger Cameron Slater defamed Craig, Justice Toogood found that Craig certainly did sexually harass MacGregor – but his decision could have far greater impact for many more people than just Craig, MacGregor, Slater and the number of others Craig has sued over this sorry mess.

Justice Toogood is saying that if, as an employer, you think you can go around doing the kind of stuff Craig did to MacGregor, the court will assume it’s unwelcome. That will be the baseline assumption.

Instead of the victim having to prove your attention was unwelcome, you will have to prove that it was not.

That is, of course, simplifying things – Justice Toogood’s decision is hundreds of pages long and makes for difficult reading at times, particularly if you’re squeamish or easily embarrassed. It describes a murky situation where lines were crossed by both players at one point, and where Craig’s attention was welcomed before election day 2011 – but not afterwards.

It acknowledges the complexity of the situation, yet finds MacGregor was harassed, and has since been dragged through the courts against her will on multiple occasions.

More importantly (no offence to MacGregor), the judgment makes some powerful statements about how the courts will view sexual harassment in the future. This should give New Zealand women a tiny warm glow in the midst of the scorched-earth landscape in which survivors of sexual harassment are often left.

It talks about the power imbalance – Craig as the wealthy employer and MacGregor  as the much younger employee – and how it’s reasonable to infer the sexual conduct or language was unwelcome, “whether the complainant objected at the time of the alleged harassment or not”.

It says that as an employer, Craig should have known “that the appropriate course for him to follow was not merely to reassure her that her job was safe notwithstanding what had occurred. He ought to have assured Ms MacGregor that he also recognised that it was inappropriate for him to give any form of expression to being sexually attracted to her and thereafter to refrain from any communication or conduct of that kind”.

It answers that old chestnut, “why didn’t she complain before now?” Justice Toogood accepts MacGregor could not have been expected to do that, as she feared for her job.

This should be noted as a warning to employers and others (like politicians) in positions of relative power. It applies to both males and females.

 

 

 

 

Craig v Slater – the biggest losers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary from Courts of New Zealand:

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

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

Mr Slater made two counterclaims.

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

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

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

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

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

The result and orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr Slater’s counterclaims

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

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

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

From the judgment on costs:

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

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

This could take some time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And any political ambitions must be gone or futile.

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

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

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

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

 

Craig v Williams strike out attempt fails

This is another chapter in the widening litigation after Colin Craig was attacked via Whale Oil and Craig retaliated via a media conference and a nationwide mail-out of a pamphlet.

Craig is counter claiming defamation against Jordan Williams in a parallel case to the original claim Williams made against Craig.

Williams v Craig

Williams took Craig to court for defamation. Williams won and was awarded a record amount by a jury. However this was overturned by the judge. Wrangling on this case recently got as far as the Supreme Court, and remains unresolved.

Craig v Williams

Meanwhile, Craig also later filed separately for defamation against Williams.

This differs from the Craig v Slater v Craig claim and counter-claim which were heard at the same time (early last year, still no judgment).

Earlier this year Williams applied to the High Court for:

(a) striking out the plaintiff’s (Mr Craig’s) claim as an abuse of process;

(b) if the proceeding is not struck out, transferring the proceeding to the Wellington Registry of the Court; and

(c) if the proceeding is not struck out, ordering Mr Craig to provide security for Mr Williams’ costs

Williams partially succeeded but largely failed.

The claims made by Mr Craig

[4] On 29 May 2017, Mr Craig filed this proceeding (“the Craig proceeding”) against Mr Williams, alleging that Mr Williams made defamatory statements about Mr Craig in the period between 26 May 2015 and 26 June 2015.

[5] Mr Craig’s statement of claim pleads six separate causes of action, each relating to statements allegedly published by Mr Williams.

Conclusions on the strike-out application:

[99] In my view, the issue of whether Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor (by means falling short of sexual assault) has been conclusively determined against him in the Williams proceeding.

The causes of action and parts of causes of action that argued whether Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor were all struck out.

[128] The pleaded meaning that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor will be struck out, for the reasons discussed earlier.

But other parts of five of the six claims were allowed to stand. Craig was directed to file and serve an amended statement of claim.

[129] I do not consider there is a sufficient basis to strike out the other pleaded meanings, both of which are concerned with sexual harassment of women other than Ms MacGregor.

Williams also asked that the proceedings be struck out due to the existence of other proceedings. This was declined.

[159] Mr Williams points to numerous Court proceedings Mr Craig has now filed against a number of parties, including Mr Slater, Ms MacGregor, and Mr Stringer. It appears that all of these claims relate broadly to the same series of events in 2015.

[160] I do not think I can make anything of these other claims in the context of the present application. I did not receive any detailed submissions on the nature of the other claims, and I have no basis for finding that they were unnecessary or improper, or otherwise an abuse of the Court’s process. I am dealing here with a strike-out application in respect of this one proceeding, and I think it would be dangerous to conclude from the fact that there are a number of other proceedings commenced by Mr Craig that this proceeding was commenced for an improper collateral purpose, or was otherwise an abuse of the Court process. I decline to strike out the Craig proceeding on the basis of the existence of these other proceedings.

Williams also applied for an order for security of costs. This was dismissed.

Williams also applied for an order transferring the proceeding to the Wellington registry of the Court (from Auckland). This was dismissed.

Craig has failed to re-litigate findings that he sexually harassed MacGregor, but otherwise he successfully opposed Williams applications.

So this means that as well as Williams versus Craig continuing on it’s way through the courts, Craig versus Williams is now also able to proceed.

Full judgment here

 

Craig and MacGregor admit defamation trial is of no benefit to either of them

The Colin Craig versus Rachel MacGregor defamation trial has now been going for a week. I don’t have any interest in rehashing old evidence dragged up again.

There are two things worth noting.

One is the bizarre situation where, accused of harassment but acting for himself, Craig is able to cross-examine MacGregor as a witness. Stuff:  Colin Craig begins cross examination of Rachel MacGregor in defamation trial

In an awkward interaction, Craig cross-examined MacGregor on Friday afternoon, with MacGregor refusing to look at her former employer.

It is the second time this has played out – Craig cross-examined MacGregor at his defamation trial against blogger Cameron Slater last year.

The second:

Craig told MacGregor on Friday he did not “consider that this proceeding is in the interest of either party”.

“Do you accept that?” Craig asked.

“Yes, I do,” MacGregor replied.

So why the hell is it happening? Courts are overloaded with important stuff, so this is a drain on limited resources.

I think it’s unlikely this is MacGregor’s choice. Craig seems to have become obsessed with using the courts to try to prove something. There has been:

  • Williams versus Craig (not Craig’s choice)
  • Craig versus Slater & Slater versus Craig
  • Craig versus Stringer
  • Craig verses Stiekema
  • Craig versus MacGregor & MacGregor versus Craig

Obviously the last of those is before the court still. Stringer may be finished with, but all the others are in various states of progress through the courts.

Related to these (having also been caused by posts on Whale Oil):

  • Blomfield versus Slater (due in court in October)
  • Sellman, Swinburn, Bradbrook versus Slater, Graham, Facilitate Communications Limited, Katherine Rich, New Zealand Food and Grocery Council Inc

The latter provides some insight into claims that seem to be common across all of these cases:

[11] In 31 causes of action the plaintiffs seek general damages, aggravated and punitive damages and costs from Mr Slater, Mr Graham and FCL in various combinations for defaming them in different combinations in the 31 posts. In nine more causes of action (numbers 32 to 40) the plaintiffs allege Mr Graham and FCL defamed them in various combinations in comments on the posts. In one cause of action, number 41, all plaintiffs seek general damages, aggravated and punitive damages and costs from Ms Rich and the NZFGC for procuring Mr Graham, FCL and Mr Slater to publish the substance and sting of the defamatory statements.

[12] The defendants deny the allegations against them and offer several affirmative defences

(a) a number of the causes of action are time-barred;

(b) all statements on all causes of action are true and statements of honest opinion;

(c) all statements attract qualified privilege as part of robust political debate about matters of legitimate public interest regarding the regulation of alcohol, sugar, fat and tobacco

Result

[125] I decline the applications to strike-out the causes of action except in relation to the pleaded meanings identified in the table annexed to this judgment.

SELLMAN & ORS v SLATER & ORS [2017] NZHC 2392 [2 October 2017]

That judgment was almost exactly a year ago. I presume this case is still progressing, slowly as defamation cases seem to. They tend to be drawn out and expensive.

What you see in news reports is mostly just on actual trials. There can be a lot of other processes including submissions, rulings and court hearings involved.

I doubt there will be any real winners in all of this. Some may get enough damages and costs to cover their expenses, but most reputations have been irreparably damaged, and that gets amplified by all the court carry on.

Defamation trial – Craig versus McGregor

A two week judge only defamation trial between Colin Craig and his ex-party secretary Rachel McGregor is due to start tomorrow. There have been a number of high profile defamation cases involving Craig, and McGregor has been a feature of most of them, but this case has not received much if any attention so far.

Stuff: Public appeal for funds ahead of Rachel MacGregor’s defamation action against Colin Craig

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor go head to head in a defamation case at the High Court in Auckland on Monday.

In the latest stage in the ongoing very public saga of the pair’s work relationship, the case goes to court after Craig filed defamation proceedings against MacGregor in November 2016.

Craig’s case is based on what he alleges are three separate defamations of him.

MacGregor has responded with a counterclaim alleging Craig defamed her in four separate incidents.

The issues at the heart of the proceedings came to public attention when MacGregor resigned as Craig’s press secretary two days before the 2014 election. The same day, she filed a claim of sexual harassment against him with the Human Rights Commission, allegations he denied.

At mediation, they settled the sexual harassment claim and a financial dispute, and signed a confidentiality agreement.

MacGregor subsequently complained to the Human Rights Review Tribunal that Craig had breached the confidentiality agreement, by doing media interviews and holding two press conferences.

The tribunal found in her favour, and ordered Craig to pay MacGregor $128,000.

In an interview with Stuff Circuit, timed to launch a public appeal to help her fund her legal defence, MacGregor said: “I don’t have any assets. I am just absolutely nowhere as wealthy as Colin Craig.”

MacGregor said it’s been a tough four years having to navigate the legal system.

“I would not be able to do that on my own and I don’t know how people are expected to navigate it on their own.”

She is still bound by the confidentiality agreement and said, “There’s a real asymmetry. People have mainly heard his side of the story and … the little bits of mine that they’ve heard, I haven’t been able to lead the narrative. I haven’t been able to tell my story on my terms and it’s really frustrating.”

This is not a great way to get to tell one’s side of a messy story.

Defamation trials can be very expensive. Craig is representing himself.

McGregor has already been dragged into two related defamation cases as a subject and a witness. One is Jordan Williams versus Craig, currently heading to a Supreme Court appeal and cross appeal:

A Leave to appeal and leave to cross-appeal is granted (Williams v Craig [2018] NZCA 31).

B The approved question is whether the Court of Appeal erred in allowing the appeal to that Court in part and dismissing the cross-appeal to that Court.

The other is Craig versus Cameron Slater. The trial was held in May-June 2017, but there has been no judgment yet. It is possible the judge in that trial is waiting on outcomes from Williams versus Craig.

Slater is heading for another defamation trial next month, taken against him by Matthew Blomfield, also as a result of posts on Whale Oil.

Craig has also been to court versus John Stringer. I find the last judgment: CRAIG v STRINGER [2017] NZHC 3221 [19 December 2017] confusing between plaintiffs and defendants but it includes an order rewording a previous judgment including:

[2] The wording of the judgment is amended to now read:

(a) There is judgment for the plaintiff against the defendant in relation to the following publications alleging:

(i) The plaintiff sexually harassed one or more women other than Rachel MacGregor;

(b) The plaintiff’s claims, save his claims in relation to publications alleging that the plaintiff sexually harassed Rachel MacGregor, are otherwise dismissed.

There have been a number of ugly aspects to these protracted defamation proceedings. They are set to get another airing in court over the next two weeks,

Williams versus Craig in the Supreme Court

The Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation saga reached the Supreme Court this week. Most media must be over this spat as it was largely ignored.

But for those who aren’t over it yet, Asher Emanuel covered it well for The Spinoff – ‘Who do you despise more?’ Jordan Williams and Colin Craig at the Supreme Court

The jury seem to have despised Craig the most, but the trial judge said that tainted their decision.

Here’s the ‘the very abbreviated version” of the background:

Earlier this year an appeal court said that these long-running defamation proceedings had “exposed serious flaws in the characters of both protagonists”, which is also a fair description of the events which led to this week’s Supreme Court hearing.

In the weeks before the 2014 general election, polls showed the Conservative Party to be a genuine prospect to enter parliament. Two days before the vote, Colin Craig’s press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, resigned unexpectedly. The party ended up falling a percentage point short of the threshold required to make it.

After the election, MacGregor told Williams, an acquaintance of hers, that Craig had sexually harassed her. She later filed a claim of sexual harassment with the Human Rights Tribunal, which was settled in mediation with Craig in early 2015. The settlement included a confidentiality agreement and she considered the matter at an end.

Despite promising MacGregor and her lawyer he would keep her story and documents she’d entrusted to him confidential, Williams used the information in what a judge later described as a “campaign” to have Craig removed as leader of the party. Williams told the party board members, informed Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust that he should prepare to fill the party leadership, and authored posts for Whale Oil under the pen name “Concerned Conservative” alleging Craig sexually harassed MacGregor as well as publishing a poem Craig had sent her.

Craig responded by calling a press conference to announce a pamphlet he’d put together about “the dirty politics agenda and what they have been up to in recent weeks”. There had been a campaign of defamatory lies about him, he said. He’d never sexually harassed anybody, claims otherwise were false, and in the next 48 hours he would be suing Jordan Williams, Cameron Slater, and a member of the Conservative Party board member John Stringer for $300,000, $650,000 and $600,000 respectively.

At a cost of $250,000 he had the pamphlet — replete with strange capitalisation, a cartoon and an obviously fictitious interview between Colin Craig and a Mr X (actually also Colin Craig) — sent to 1.6 million homes.

Williams sued Craig, saying Craig had defamed him by calling him a liar and implying Williams was dishonest, deceitful, a serial liar, not to be trusted, and lacking in integrity. Williams won and was awarded $1.27 million, the largest defamation award ever made in New Zealand. (The trial judge did, though, find there was some evidence that Williams had been dishonest and deceitful, and could not be trusted.)

Both Craig and Williams had their reputations tarnished by the trial, but the jury decided that Craig’s responses to Williams’ attacks were excessive.

The appeal court worried that the size of the original award was more about punishing Craig than vindicating Williams’ reputation. Indeed, Craig’s lawyer had said, pretty candidly, that the he thought the jury “hated” Craig.

And Williams’ reputation was not worth $1.27 million.

“The trial process revealed that Mr Williams had accused Mr Craig of sexual harassment against Ms MacGregor but himself harboured offensive attitudes towards women,” the court said, referring to Facebook messages between Williams and Cameron Slater published by the hacker Rawshark and put in evidence by Craig.

“A damages award should restore Mr Williams’ reputation to the status it ought it to have enjoyed if this element of his character was known publicly. The law must be concerned with the reputation he deserved and compensate accordingly.”

Williams won’t have been well known to the general public but many of those who followed politics and ‘Dirty Politics’ are likely to have not rated his reputation highly before his spat with Craig.

And this week the spat reached the Supreme Court.

The precise legal issues involved are particularly technical and arcane — for instance, which elements of the defence of qualified privilege are for a judge to decide, and which are for a jury.

But the essence of each party’s case is simple enough. Williams wants the jury’s verdict to stand, including the enormous damages award. He disagrees with the trial judge’s decision to order a retrial of the whole case, and the appeal court decision that any damages should be far more modest.

Craig, presumably, just wants it all to go away. The jury shouldn’t have taken away his defence. He had been defending his political standing, his lawyer explained. He had retaliated to “protect his reputation as a man, a husband and a father.” Williams, by contrast, was overly hasty, exaggerated his claims, breached various assurances of confidentiality, was uninterested in evidence which contradicted his views, et cetera.

In this case, the privilege Craig relied on is the right to respond to an attack on one’s reputation. Williams attacked Craig, so Craig was entitled to respond. But there are limits. For instance, Craig would lose the defence if he was mainly motivated by “ill will”, including if he didn’t believe what he was saying was true.

Craig’s lawyer said he honestly believed that he had not sexually harassed MacGregor, and that the relationship was close and to some extent reciprocated. The judge’s instructions to the jury made it seem like it was easy for Craig to lose his defence, the lawyer argued.

Williams’ lawyer said Craig knew he sexually harassed MacGregor, he knew his remarks about Williams were false, and the defence was not available to him, as the jury decided.

The lawyers, who must have already cost their clients huge amounts of money, went over all of this over two days in front of five Supreme Court judges.

The outcome will be awaited. The jury’s verdict could be reinstated. A retrial could be ordered, either in whole or just on damages, which retrial could in turn give rise to further appeals, and so on and so on. Unfortunately, the courts cannot substitute their own view on damages unless the parties consent. And agreement to let the court assess damages has not been reached, despite some pleading from the appeals court.

In time a verdict will come out, but that will only determine who this saga will proceed to yet another court.

And that’s not all for Craig. He is still waiting for a verdict on his defamation and counter claim versus Cameron Slater, now well over a year after the trial. perhaps that has been waiting to see the outcome of this saga, as any monetary award would have to add up alongside whatever Williams ends up with being awarded.

And that’s not all for Slater – Blomfield v Slater trial date set

A defamation proceeding brought by Matthew Blomfield against Cameron Slater that was started in the District Court in 2012 will finally go to trial in the High Court in October. It will be judge only (no jury), and is expected to run for four weeks or six weeks (two recent judgments give different durations).

It’s hard to see there being any winners out of all of this, financially at least. The cost of taking defamation to court is horrendous, and as Williams and Craig have found out the cost to their reputations can be high as well.