NZ donations to Clinton Foundation

On the surface a revelation by the Taxpayers’ Unionthat New Zealand has given donations to the Clinton Foundation and intends to donate more sound quite questionable, but it may not be as bad as first impressions may give.

Government Set to Give Clinton Foundation Another $5.5M

First I’ll deal with the last paragraph:

Given New Zealand’s faux pas in co-sponsoring the UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel on Christmas Eve, and the heavy criticism of New Zealand which has resulted, the continued support of the Clinton Foundation risks even more damage to New Zealand’s ability to wield any influence in the US.

For an organisation that purports to be political independent  that’s a curious slant on this, taking a swipe at the UN vote which has pretty much nothing to do with the donations.

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the Government has budgeted to give another $5.5 million dollars of taxpayers’ money to the controversial Clinton Foundation, despite Mrs Clinton’s failed US Presidential bid and controversy over improper ties between the Clinton Foundation, the State Department and donations from foreign governments to the foundation while Ms Clinton was US Secretary of State.

Figures obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union under the Official Information Act show that to date Kiwi taxpayers have forked out $7.7 million to the Clinton Foundation’s “Health Access Initiative” with $2.5 million and $3 million earmarked for 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Given the lessons of the Saudi Sheep saga, we are staggered that MFAT appear to still think handing out money for diplomatic purposes is sensible.  Even worse, this money comes from the NZ Aid budget which should be going to programes which are the most effective at helping the world’s poor – not sidetracked into political objectives.

Again, this has little if anything to do with the Saudi sheep ‘saga’.

No proof is provided that the Clinton Foundation donations have “political objectives”.

It is possible that officials have reason to believe that the Clinton Foundation’s work does provide good value for money, although given the controversy in the US that seems unlikely. The refusal to front up and explain leaves a stench of buying political access.

More loaded comments.

The Taxpayers’ Union provide a copy of a letter explaining what the donations are for.

mfatclinton1

mfatclinton2

That doesn’t sound bad at all.

Is the Taxpayers’ Union trying to play politics with straight forward aid?

Their media release is loaded with a number of political issues that  may have little or no relationship to this sort of aid donations.

Williams breached trust and confidentiality agreement

Last week a jury awarded Jordan Williams $1.27 million in his defamation  case against Colin Craig. Williams successfully claimed that Craig had lied about him in a press conference and a booklet that was delivered to most homes around the country.

However in evidence it was alleged that Williams had breached a confidentiality agreement made in mediation between Craig and Rachel MacGregor through the Human Rights Commission.

Yesterday a decision released by the Human Rights Review Tribunal (MacGregor v Craig [2016] NZHRRT 6) detailed the breaches of trust and confidentiality by Williams.

[50] On or about 22 May 2015, approximately three weeks after the 4 May 2015 mediation, Mr Craig was told by a member of the Conservative Party Board (Ms Christine Rankin) there were rumours Mr Craig had paid off Ms MacGregor to cover serious misbehaviour. Ms Rankin added she was in possession of information sent to her by an informant. This information turned out to be a poem taken from a letter Mr Craig had sent to Ms MacGregor on 24 December 2013. That letter was part of the material relied on by Ms MacGregor in support of her sexual harassment complaint. At about the same time as his discussion with Ms Rankin Mr Craig was told attempts were being made to remove him as leader of the Conservative Party.

[51] By 30 May 2015 it appeared to Mr Craig other Board members (including the Chairman, Mr Brian Dobbs) had been given details about the mediation as well as confidential information. On 16 June 2015 Mr Craig received an anonymous text quoting from the 24 December 2013 letter and on 19 June 2015 the Whale Oil blog published extracts from the confidential documents. On the same day Mr Craig felt compelled to stand down as leader of the Conservative Party. 14

[52] By this time Mr Craig was certain the source of the information was Mr Jordan Williams. His suspicions were confirmed when Mr Williams gave evidence to the Tribunal that it was he (Mr Williams) who had provided the information to members of the Board and to Mr Slater of the Whale Oil blog. He explicitly acknowledged he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to disclose the information and indeed had been expressly instructed by her not to disclose the information to anyone. The disclosure was also contrary to an express assurance given by Mr Williams to Mr Bevan that the information relating to Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim and in relation to which Ms MacGregor had, prior to the mediation, confided in Mr Williams would be kept confidential.

So Williams distributed confidential information to members of the Conservative Party and to Cameron Slater at Whale Oil despite being “expressly instructed by her not to disclose the information to anyone”, and despite an express assurance that Williams gave to lawyer Mr Bevan that the information would be kept confidential.

Ms MacGregor and Mr Jordan Williams

[56] Ms MacGregor met Mr Jordan Williams through her work with the Conservative Party. After her resignation she confided in Mr Williams because she knew he was a lawyer and someone who understood politics. She thought he would understand her situation and be able to provide good advice. She showed him the correspondence from Mr Craig but did not give him copies or permission to make copies of any of that correspondence. Mr Williams helped Ms MacGregor to put her claim in chronological order and to prepare a file note which was then sent to Mr Bevan.

[57] Some time later, prior to the mediation, Ms MacGregor and Mr Williams began a romantic relationship. At the time Mr Williams allowed Ms MacGregor to store certain documents, including correspondence between Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig, in the safe at his (Mr Williams’) work place. Mr Williams assured Ms MacGregor only he had access to the safe and that the material would be secure.

[58] At the time Ms MacGregor confided in Mr Williams she was under no obligation of confidentiality to Mr Craig (the mediation had not yet been agreed to and had consequently not taken place) and Mr Craig accepted in evidence she was entitled to speak to whomsoever she wished prior to the mediation confidentiality agreement being signed.

[59] When in November 2014 Ms MacGregor told Mr Bevan she had sought advice and counsel from Mr Williams, Mr Bevan decided to speak to Mr Williams about the importance of confidentiality, believing such discussion justified in the light of Mr Williams’ mention by Nicky Hager in his Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment (Craig Potten Publishing, Nelson, 2014). Mr Bevan contacted Mr Williams by telephone on 26 November 2014. Mr Bevan (inter alia) stressed the importance of Mr Williams keeping confidential the information Ms MacGregor had shared with Mr Williams. Mr Williams told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) was a lawyer holding a practising certificate, but working in-house. He made it clear he was not acting for Ms MacGregor but that he was treating (or would treat) information he obtained from her on the same confidential basis as he would if she were his client. This gave Mr Bevan (and Ms MacGregor) a level of assurance Ms MacGregor would not be compromising her chances of a settlement by confiding in and seeking help from Mr Williams. Mr Williams also told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) had a romantic interest in Ms MacGregor.

[60] In his evidence Mr Williams confirmed Mr Bevan’s account of the November 2014 discussion and that he (Mr Williams) had given Mr Bevan an assurance he would keep the information confidential as if Ms MacGregor were a client. Mr Williams also confirmed to the Tribunal he had subsequently received from Ms MacGregor an email dated 18 June 2015 asking him to return any copies of letters she had received from Mr Craig and asking that he not make any copies as she did not want the letters used against Mr Craig. Mr Williams further told the Tribunal he ignored the email and was the person who took the two photographs of the poems subsequently published on the Whale Oil blog. He took these steps knowing he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to photograph or distribute the documents.

In the defamation  trial Williams attempted to justify his actions, but what the Tribunal says here looks quite bad for Williams.

I think that Craig is justified in being seriously aggrieved by the actions of Williams.

However Craig reacted very poorly, especially in his breaches of the confidentiality agreement and his very public attacks on MacGregor knowing that she was constrained by the confidentiality agreement.

It’s somewhat ironic that as a result of legal actions to date MacGregor has been awarded $128,780 as an innocent victim, compared to Williams being awarded $1.27 million despite being him breaching trust and the confidentiality agreement, and provoking Craig into also breaching the confidentiality agreement, plus making accusations against Williams resulted in the defamation proceedings.

Craig has indicated he may appeal the defamation decision and damages award so it may not be the end of that matter.

But currently Williams is the major winner here so far, despite:

Mr Williams told Mr Bevan that he (Mr Williams) was a lawyer holding a practising certificate, but working in-house. He made it clear he was not acting for Ms MacGregor but that he was treating (or would treat) information he obtained from her on the same confidential basis as he would if she were his client.

Mr Williams also confirmed to the Tribunal he had subsequently received from Ms MacGregor an email dated 18 June 2015 asking him to return any copies of letters she had received from Mr Craig and asking that he not make any copies as she did not want the letters used against Mr Craig. Mr Williams further told the Tribunal he ignored the email and was the person who took the two photographs of the poems subsequently published on the Whale Oil blog. He took these steps knowing he did not have Ms MacGregor’s permission to photograph or distribute the documents.

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.

Why?

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.

Closing arguments in Williams v Craig

Closing arguments had been scheduled to be made yesterday but for some reason must have been deferred until today in the Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation proceedings.

NZH: Colin Craig trial: ‘Jordan Williams wanted leader gone’

For Colin Craig to say Jordan Williams’ didn’t have a reputation to defame is totally untrue and unfair, says the lawyer for the Taxpayers’ Union executive director.

Peter McKnight also said the former leader of the Conservative Party was “at best a hypocrite and at worst” a politician who sexually harassed his press secretary and acted dishonestly.

In his closing arguments in the defamation trial against Craig, McKnight told the jury the evidence over the last three weeks had shown the politician did not tell the truth about his Christianity, relationship with Rachael Macgregor and his campaign platform.

He told them if they ruled Craig had sent the Dirty Politics pamphlet 1.6 million households across New Zealand because of feelings of ill-will towards Williams, they couldn’t use defence of qualified privilege – the right to defend against an attack.

Once that was ruled out, just two defences remained – truth and honest opinion.

Williams believed he was acting in the best interests of Macgregor when he told other members of the party about the harassment and leaked it to right-wing blog Whale Oil.

“There really must be a stop to this person. He must be stopped from ruining so many lives. I suggest to you that there can be absolutely no doubt that Colin Craig was the author of his own misfortune and it does him little credit that he now somehow blames Jordan Williams for this,” McKnight told the jury.

“Something needs to be done about this man and I leave that in your capable hands.”

Some are sure to see some ironies there.

In his closing statement in Craig’s defamation trial in Auckland’s High Court today, Stephen Mills QC said that when Craig sent out a leaflet and held a press conference claiming Williams and others spread false accusations about him he believed he was hitting back at “dirty politics”.

“It’s about Mr Williams and Mr Craig.”

After MacGregor’s shock resignation, she allegedly told Williams Craig had sexually harassed her through texts, cards, letters “and the now infamous” poem which included the line: “you are beautiful because you have the most perfect dot dot dot”.

Against MacGregor’s wishes and breaking her confidence, Williams passed the information on to members of the Conservative Party board and right-wing blog Whale Oil.

Mills told the jury there was evidence that showed Williams purposefully didn’t seek to find out the truth.

Mills said Craig distributed the pamphlet and held the press conference, because after the attacks he needed to defend his reputation and was standing up for what he thought was the right way to conduct politics in New Zealand.

His reputation had taken a hit from the “incredibly damaging” allegations, Mills said.

“He fought back, which is how we got here,” Mills told the court.

Mills told the jury it was up to them to decide whether Williams had “acted with honesty and integrity” while acting on the information MacGregor gave to him in confidence, and whether Craig believed the information he distributed was the truth and his honest opinion at the time.

“Whether they were ultimately right or wrong is not the test.”

And if the jury decided that the answer is “yes, you think yes they’re true – he [Williams] isn’t trustworthy for example, then that’s a defence.”

I think Craig’s biggest difficulty in defence is in the lengths he went to printing and distributing the pamphlet.

His main defence is of qualified privilege – that being under attack he was justified in hitting back.

Williams has problems with not having the whole story, breaking MacGregor’s confidence against her wishes and how far he pushed the allegations to Conservative Party board members and via Whale Oil.

The judge will sum up tomorrow, and then it’s up to the jury to work out. Much may depend on how they have seen the testimony and how they see the intent of both Williams and Craig.

I’m not going to predict an outcome except that I suspect that the money awarded, if any will be far closer to $1 than $1 million dollars.

More on Williams’ court outburst

Stuff has more detail on the outburst by Jordan Williams in court yesterday in his defamation case against Colin Craig.

Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams’ courtroom rant

The proceedings finished in the High Court at Auckland with Craig’s lawyers recalling Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams, who has taken the defamation action against Craig. 

The tense final examination of Williams prompted him to tell Craig’s legal team that they had “s…” all over Craig’s former press secretary Rachel MacGregor and accused them of “coming after” Williams.

The terse stand off between Williams and Craig’s lawyer Stephen Mills QC was prompted after communications between Williams and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater were unearthed a week into the trial.

I have a fair idea what that will be referring to. At this stage of proceedings I don’t want to give or hint at what it is.

Mills QC said it was evidence that Williams used people for his own political advantage. 

Williams was adamant that the comments produced to the court, allegedly made by him, were falsified. 

Where the communication originated and its contents can’t be reported due to legal reasons. 

And that means can’t be mentioned here by anyone. I wonder if this is has something to do with “Lawyers will discuss trial matters on Monday”.

Williams said he was “embarrassed” by the communication and had apologised to the person who was the subject of the conversation. 

He didn’t want to reveal what he’d actually said during the conversation because it was “yuck” and “personal”. 

“I don’t want to say what the comment was because it’s really personal about [the person]. I don’t want to say it. The thing is I can’t produce the original. I can’t prove to you, but I know the circumstances. I wouldn’t have said that. I said something yuck. The opposite.” 

Mills QC put to Williams he was “prepared to use people that are your friends for your wider political agendas”.

Williams then slammed his fist on the witness box. 

jordanwilliamscourtfist

“I supported [Rachel MacGregor] for eight months until that p… [Craig] started piddling on the [confidentiality] agreement.  

“You guys have come after me. You’ve said I’m a blackmailer, you’ve said I smeared the Serious Fraud Office. I can wear stuff that’s [in the documents]. My whole life is out there, I’ve got everything of my life out there, and I wear some pretty embarrassing stuff. I can wear stuff that’s there but I can’t wear stuff that’s not true. 

“You’ve s… on Rachel in this case. You can’t help yourself.” 

Some of this is available in video here  at One News: ‘You’ve shat on Rachel’: Tensions run high in Colin Craig defamation case

No matter how justified you think it may be, if you take someone to court exposing very embarrassing information, imposing legal costs of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars on your opponent, claim I think $900,000 in damages, then there must be some expectation of a fairly robust defence.

A defamation settlement proposal

Lawyer Greg Presland makes some observations that are probably widely shared, and A settlement proposal for Jordan Williams and Colin Craig

To both of them can I suggest that they immediately discontinue their proceedings.  And pay the anticipated further legal fees to a suitable charity.  I suggest Salvation Army.  The lawyers will understand.  At least I hope so.

The world will be a better place if they do so.

There are two things wrong with this proposal.

It is months too late.

And it is likely to be ignored.

While some monetary gain was the aim of one party in this dispute it is debatable whether much if any of that will be forthcoming.

Otherwise it’s difficult to see what good could have come out of the extended and very public revelations.

There was always going to be the potential for major losses in credibility and respect, not just for the two people at the forefront of this battle of witlesses, but especially for the collateral damage to others.

What appears to be unintended consequences should have been very predictable.

Bradbury in Williams v Craig

One of the last witnesses to appear for Colin Craig in his defamation case with Jordan Williams was Martyn Bradbury.

The NZH senior police reporter Anna Leask from Heated scenes at Colin Craig trial:

He was called by Colin Craig’s team to give evidence about Jordan Williams, it was basically a character witness kind of thing.

He was talking about Williams and his previous experience with him, and he told the jury that Jordan had lied directly to him in the past, and described him as  one of a pack of hyenas who were intent on taking Craig down.

Bradbury was quite boisterous and colourful in court, and he referred to people who participate in this practice… as cancers and political sadists, Williams included in his opinion.

From NZH: Jordan Williams emotional and angry in court

Media commentator and blogger Martyn Bradbury was also called today to give evidence about his previous experience with Williams.

He claimed in court that in the past Williams had lied to him directly and “created a fake email identity” which he used to “send a false tip-off”.

He said Williams had embarked on a “political hit job” against Craig and described him as one of “a pack of hyenas” who had turned on the former politician.

“I thought (Craig’s pamphlet Dirty Politics and Hidden Agenda) was an appropriate response to a pack of political sadists,” Bradbury said.

I always thought the pamphlet was a bizarre, crazy way of trying to deal with things, and in no way appropriate (but I have no idea whether it may constitute defamation).

He told the jury he thought Williams and a number of others he felt were involved in the practice of dirty politics in New Zealand were “a cancer on the body politics in this
country”.

Bradbury was asked what he thought the defamation trial was about and replied: “an angry fight between two people who don’t like each other much”.

There may well be some anger and indignation involved, but some of those who get into political activism seem to see it as a bit of a game to be won at any cost.

Under cross-examination Williams’ lawyer Peter Knight grilled Bradbury about his posting blogs that had “derogatory, horrible and sleazy” comments about his client before he gave evidence.

He asked Bradbury if he thought it appropriate to “attack” Williams online given he was coming to court to give evidence against him days later.

I said last week that I thought it was quite unwise for Bradbury to post about the case he was to be a witness in.

His derogatory, horrible and sleazy” comments will have taken the edge somewhat off his accusations of others being dirty.

Bradbury admitted posting about the trial last week but said he had not posted about his own evidence.

“Did you think it was appropriate given you were going to be a witness, to do that?” said McKnight.

“My understanding was that I could not talk about my evidence, I didn’t realise I couldn’t blog about breaking news,” he said.

Craig’s team should have made it clear to Bradbury in advance of the Court sitting what was appropriate and what wasn’t.

And Bradbury should have known better or should have found out what he could do and what he shouldn’t do. He seems to have difficulty being discrete at times, and in this case may have damaged his credibility in court.

UPDATE: More from Stuff on Bradbury’s appearance – Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams’ courtroom rant

Political commentator and blogger Martyn Bradbury on Friday afternoon told the court that Jordan Williams was “manipulative” and akin to a “venomous spider”. 

Bradbury had the jury in fits of laughter as he also explained his disdain for Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater. 

Without knowing what he actually said I think that’s quite sad, not funny.

“Loathe is not strong enough a word,” he said. 

His descriptions prompted Williams’ lawyer Peter McKnight to suggest Bradbury was being “flippant”. 

Bradbury gave evidence of Williams’ character and criticised his relationship with Slater. 

Williams’ leaking information about Craig to Slater was for Williams’ “own political ends”, Bradbury thought. 

 “As far as I was concerned, I thought the leaflet was an appropriate response to a pack of political sadists,” Bradbury said.

“I think this [trial is] an angry fight between two people who don’t like each other much. It’s very, very important for the jury to find the truth in this.” 

That is funny, trying to instruct the jury.