Williams versus Craig: will there be an apology?

Jordan Williams has sort of won the latest round in the defamation proceedings he brought against Colin Craig, but it’s hard to are any either his or Craig’s reputation or bank balance coming out of this in the positive.

Williams was originally awarded about $1.2 million in ordinary and punitive damages by a jury, but the judge set that aside, saying it was an excessive award and it should go back to trial. Williams appealed that and won – it won’t go back to trial to determine defamation, that stands, but it will go back to trial or the judge to determine an appropriate award. Craig cross appealed and lost.

A key question in the original trial was whether Craig’s reaction to attacks and provocation from Williams was justified or over the top. The jury ruled it was excessive and that stands, but the Court of Appeal ruled they didn’t take the behaviour and reputation of Williams into account when awarding damages.

Judgment of the Court

A The appeal is allowed in part. The order made in the High Court for retrial of the appellant’s claims for liability and damages is set aside.

B Judgment is entered for the appellant in accordance with the jury’s verdict on liability. An order is made directing a retrial of the appellant’s claim for damages.

C In all other respects the appeal and cross appeal are dismissed.

D The respondent is ordered to pay the appellant 50 per cent of costs as calculated for a standard appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements. There is no order for costs on the cross-appeal. All costs issues arising in the High Court are to be determined in that Court in accordance with this judgment.

However they also ruled that it was appropriate to set a limit on the level of damages.

[58] Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of an unsustainable award. His claim was pitched at a plainly extravagant level. There was no request for a direction about the appropriate parameters of an award. In this case an appropriate direction would have been up to $250,000 for compensatory damages
including aggravation, and for punitive damages no more than $10,000.

[78] It will be for the retrial Judge to decide procedure for a damages claim.

(b) Mr Williams is entitled to a compensatory award, which should be anywhere up to a maximum of $250,000 for damage to his reputation, including aggravating factors…

(c) an award of punitive damages was also available but should not be more than $10,000.

So a maximum of $260,000 recommended, about a million dollars less than the original award.

A lack of an apology from Craig was a factor, and remains a factor.

[41] The circumstances of this case are much less serious than those of Siemer v Stiassny and Holloway. We acknowledge the jury’s finding that Mr Craig’s statements about Mr Williams were false and defamatory and would tend to lower his standing in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. Its verdicts must be respected. We acknowledge also the gravity of Mr Craig’s attack on Mr Williams’ reputation, the nationwide and repetitive circulation of Mr Craig’s defamatory comments, Mr Craig’s persistence with his defence of truth and attack on Mr Williams’ reputation, and Mr Craig’s refusal to apologise. However, some perspective is necessary. We refer to two particular contextual factors.

[42] First, Mr Williams cannot point to any special harm. He is not a public figure. He is the leader of a little-known political group. Nor was he defamed in performing his professional duties as a lawyer. He was defamed in response to his actions taken with the aim of removing Mr Craig from his office as leader of a small political party. Whether Mr Williams’ objective was purely personal or linked to his role as a lobbyist for fiscal conservatism is of no real moment. His tactics — such as private messaging and the use of a pseudonym — were covert so as to keep himself out of the public eye.

[43] The trial process revealed that Mr Williams had accused Mr Craig of sexual harassment against Ms MacGregor but himself harboured offensive attitudes towards women. Mr Williams’ Facebook exchanges with Mr Slater, on which he was recalled for cross-examination at trial, were sexually crude and disparaging of women, particularly those of a different political leaning. In a written apology, which he read aloud at trial, Mr Williams accepted that his messages portrayed him in a poor light. It may fairly be observed that the trial process exposed serious flaws in the characters of both protagonists.

[79] …The trial Judge will provide extracts from the evidential transcript. Mr Craig may also wish to mitigate damages by tendering an unequivocal apology to Mr Williams.

This suggests that if Craig tenders “an unequivocal apology” the damages will be mitigated – that must mean reduced.

I don’t know if Craig will be prepared to apologise, but if he does, properly, the award should shrink further.

This has been a very costly trial, both monetary and to both reputations.

Williams was awarded just 50% of the costs of his appeal, and none of the costs for the cross appeal.

On a retrial on damages he may also be awarded costs, but that may not be all of the costs there, and I don’t know how the costs of the original trial will be determined, if at all. It’s hard to see Williams being awarded all costs given the Court of Appeal stated “Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of an unsustainable award”.

In one respect Williams has won – the defamation decided by the jury stands. But he has not helped his own reputation with the trial, and he may not come out of this very well financially either. It could end up being a win-lose outcome for him.

It’s just a lose-lose situation for Craig. He was understandably at the attacks on him and the fairly clear attempts to destroy his political career and his Conservative party, but he over-reacted in response, using the power of his money excessively. That has cost him a lot. If he apologises it will cost him a little less perhaps.

Williams versus Craig – retrial of damages only

The Court of Appeal has ruled in the Jordan Williams versus Colin Craig defamation, saying there should be no retrial of the defamation, but the costs should go before the Court again.

 

After noting Wiliams’ Facebook exchange with Whaleoil was “sexually crude and disparaging of women” the Court of Appeal said of the damages award: “The law must be concerned with the reputation he deserved and compensate accordingly.”

The Appeal Court on Colin Craig “We agree with Mr Mills QC that the size of the award suggests the jury’s particularly adverse judgment on Mr Craig’s character, credibility and conduct of his defence. Mr Mills pitched it at the level of the jury’s hatred for Mr Craig.”

But a different take from Stuff:  Taxpayers’ Union boss wins right to argue claim for $1.27m in damages

Taxpayers’ Union co-founder Jordan Williams may be able to claw back the $1.27 million in damages originally awarded to him in a defamation case.

The High Court judge presiding over the case later set aside the damages – the largest defamation award in New Zealand, and the maximum Williams had sought.

But on Monday, the Court of Appeal released a decision allowing part of Williams’ appeal, which would see a retrial of his claim for damages.

Other aspects of Williams’ appeal and Craig’s cross-appeal were dismissed. However, the retrial relating to the damages alone, would give Williams the chance to claw back at least some of the initial $1.27m he was initially promised.

That’s different to the headline and initial paragraph. Stuff has a copy of the decision.

[78] It will be for the retrial Judge to decide procedure for a damages claim.The process should be analogous to trial of a claim on admitted facts, or admitted pleadings, and be relatively straightforward. The Judge could properly direct the jury to this effect:

(a) Mr Craig defamed Mr Williams in two separate publications, the Remarks and the Leaflet, at least a week apart, by stating that Mr Williams had acted dishonestly, untruthfully and deceitfully for making the allegation that Mr Craig had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, which was necessarily rejected by the first jury;

(b) Mr Williams is entitled to a compensatory award, which should be anywhere up to a maximum of $250,000 for damage to his reputation,including aggravating factors, taking into account that:

– any damage was caused primarily by the Remarks and compounded marginally by republication in the Leaflet;

– some of the allegations made by Mr Craig about Mr Williams’ conduct relating to the defamatory statements had elements of truth in that some aspects of his conduct had been dishonest, deceitful and untrustworthy, but not in making the allegation of sexual harassment;

– Mr Craig’s statements were made in a political context and in a counter-attack to criticisms made by a man whose own attitude to women was questionable;

– elements of Mr Craig’s  conduct of his defence may have compounded the original damage; and

(c)  an award of punitive damages was also available but should not be more than $10,000

That sets maximums at less than a quarter of the original award.

79]

The Judge’s approach will ultimately be influenced by the parties’ decisions.

[80]
There is of course a more pragmatic and sensible solution. The parties can simply agree that Katz J should determine damages.  The Judge alluded to this option in her retrial decision.  She invited counsel for the parties to submit memoranda.Both sides have since shadow boxed on this proposal, which remains in limbo. It isthe most obvious path to resolution if the parties are genuinely seeking finality. Katz J is fully familiar with all the evidence and would only require focused submissions from counsel to complete the exercise.

Can they be pragmatic?

[118]  The appeal is allowed in part. The order made in the High Court for a retrial of the appellant’s claim for liability and damages is set aside.

[119]  Judgment is entered for the appellant in accordance with the jury’s verdict onliability. An order is made directing a retrial of the appellant’s  claim for damages.

[120]  In all other respects the appeal and cross-appeal are dismissed.

[121]  The respondent is ordered to pay the appellant 50 per cent of costs as calculatedfor a standard appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements. This reductionreflects the fact that the appeal was only partially successful. There is no order for costs on the cross-appeal. All costs issues arising in the High Court are to be determined in that Court in accordance with this judgment.

The decision online: http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/williams-v-craig-1/@@images/fileDecision?r=514.731640769

Statement from Jordan Williams re Court of Appeal decision

Naturally, I am delighted with the success of my appeal at the Court of Appeal overturning Justice Katz’s earlier decision to set aside the jury verdict in my defamation claim against Colin Craig. Justice Katz had ordered a full re-trial on the basis that the $1.27 million damages award was so high.

I am very relieved that there will not be a full re-trial, and that the issue is now simply damages. It means Mr Craig has failed in his efforts to re-litigate, yet again, this whole matter.

The judgment is totally clear that I was defamed by Mr Craig, and that the jury’s findings, now confirmed, have vindicated me.

No one can take away from the fact the jury were unanimous in my favour. The jury believed me, believed Rachel MacGregor, and not Mr Craig. Today’s decision has confirmed all of that.

As I said immediately after the jury verdict, I never entered into these proceedings for the money, nor did I want these proceedings at all. It was only Mr Craig’s own threats of legal action against me which saw us in Court. I sought to prove that Mr Craig’s allegations were wrong and to put a stop to Mr Craig’s egregious assault on my reputation.

But overplaying his hand on money has resulted in this legal mess.

[58] Mr Williams must take primary responsibility for the jury’s delivery of anunsustainable award. His claim was pitched at a plainly extravagant level. There was no request for a direction about the appropriate parameters of an award. In this case an appropriate direction would have been up to $250,000 for compensatory damages including aggravation, and for punitive damages no more than $10,000.

‘Back Judith Collins’ website and the Taxpayers’ Union

The Taxpayers Union denies being involved in a pro-Judith Collins website that appeared briefly before being taken down. Whether they were or weren’t behind the site it is a curious story.

Stuff reported on Monday: Anonymous ‘Back Judith’ website has fake phone number, registered to Collins’ office address

An anonymous website backing Judith Collins for National Party leader is registered to her electorate office address, a fake phone number, and what appears to be a fake identity.

The now-deleted website BackJudith.nz said it is “in no way endorsed by the National Party formal hierarchy, or Judith Collins” – a view Collins echoes. But a domain name lookup on the service whois has the website registered to her office address and phone number.

Since Stuff published a story on the topic the website appears to have been deleted.

The name associated with the registration was Raquel Ray. There is no online or ownership records of a Raquel Ray in New Zealand, save for a recently set up Facebook account and a smattering of Official Information Act requests to Callaghan Innovation.

That Facebook account – which has posted a link to the BackJudith website – has a profile picture also found on a photography website. That photographer told Stuff the person in the photograph was someone else not named “Raquel Ray”.

Collins herself said she and her office had nothing to do with the website. She assumed it was someone who really did want to support her and simply remain anonymous.

“Well I know that nobody in my office would actually be able to do that. I presume it’s not someone trying to cause difficulty for me.”

If her office had set it up secretly “using my work address would be a really dumb thing to do.”

The website encourages people to sign an open letter to National MPs to back Collins for the leadership.

The NZ Taxpayers Union have run a campaign around Callaghan Innovation expenses. Director Jordan Williams said they had a “Raquel Ray” in their database as someone who had sent in tip-offs in the past.

Williams said he and his staff were not at all involved in the website.

Stuff followed up yesterday: Taxpayers Union’s Jordan Williams’ personal email connected to Judith Collins website

Taxpayers Union director Jordan Williams’ personal email address was connected to an anonymous website backing Judith Collins for the National Party leadership, information provided to Stuff shows.

Williams said he was not behind the website on Monday and continues to deny it on Tuesday, instead suggesting that he is the victim of an elaborate smear.

Williams said the Taxpayers Union had a “Raquel Ray” in its records as someone who had sent in tip-offs but ruled out any involvement from him or his staff.

“They’re in our database and have sent through a bunch of tips in the past,” Williams told Stuff on Monday.

“Otherwise we have absolutely no association and are not taking a position in this. It’s definitely not come from within.”

A screenshot provided to Stuff shows the Raquel Ray email address that was used to set-up the website has Williams’ personal email set as its password recovery email.

The last five letters of the email address are starred out but perfectly match Williams’ personal email address. He later confirmed he had received a message to that address concerning password recovery.

However, there is nothing to stop the person who controls the Raquel Ray account setting the account recovery address as Williams – there is no verification process.

Reached on Tuesday, Williams said that this “can’t be right”.

“I did get a password reset email randomly last night,” Williams said.

He confirmed he had no involvement with Raquel Ray – other than that email had sent in tip-offs to the Taxpayers Union in the past. He declined to immediately forward that correspondence on to Stuff.

After searching his inbox Williams said that he received an email to his personal address early on Tuesday morning saying his email had been added as the recovery address to the Raquel Ray account.

He declined to forward this on to Stuff, saying he wanted to get advice on that first.

“I’m very worried that this is some sort of setup,” Williams said.

He said his personal email address was available easily online and so it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to set him up in this manner.

Williams and his organisation maintain that they are politically independent.

Related to the ‘Raquel Ray’ tipoff to the Taxpayers Union on the Callaghan Institute

There are no online or property records linked to a “Raquel Ray” save for a recently setup Facebook account using a stolen photo and a smattering of OIA requests to Callaghan Innovation.

RNZ (5 February 2018): Taxpayers’ Union criticises Callaghan spending

Last week the Taxpayers’ Union revealed the government’s science funding agency Callaghan Innovation spent more than $300,000 in a year on entertaining clients and staff. Now it says new figures show it also spent about $2.4 million on travel and accommodation. Joining us in the studio is the executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams.

And this tweet:

From FYI.org.nz:

Expenses | Beer and Burger Joint

Request sent to Callaghan Innovation by Raquel Ray on .

Withdrawn by the requester. 

That’s the only OIA request by ‘Rachel Ray’ at FYI.

I haven’t seen the ‘Robert Preston’ lead investigated. I haven’t heard of that name and a quick search doesn’t come up with anything. Surely OIA requests can’t be anonymous?

So:

  • Who set up a website supporting Judith Collins but didn’t want to be identified?
  • Why was the website taken down as soon as curious information was reported?
  • Was Jordan Williams or the Taxpayers Union involved (this is denied)?
  • If Williams wasn’t involved, why has someone tried to link him to the website?

I’d have thought that if someone wanted to set Williams and/or the Taxpayers Union up they would have wanted maximum publicity, so why would they take the site down so quickly?

Another curious aspect – as far as I can see there is no mention of this ‘Back Judith Collins’ website on Whale Oil. If such an odd attempt to promote Judith Collins but then was suddenly taken done when publicised has involved one of the other four National leadership candidates Slater is likely to have poured scorn on it.

Perhaps Slater didn’t want to give any more publicity to another website backing Collins, as that would compete with Whale Oil’s hard core promotion of Collins – the WOBLOG party is in activism overdrive.

Both Collins and Williams have had connections to Slater and controversial political activities in the past.

NOTE: some apparent connections have been reported on, but denials have been made with serious alternative suggestions (a set up). Don’t assume, insinuate or claim anything as confirmed or fact unless you have confirmation or facts to back your comments up.

Williams v Craig appeal – reserved decision

Not surprisingly the Court of Appeal has reserved it’s decision after a two day appeal hearing in the defamation case between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig.

Stuff:  Jordan Williams might be victim of his own success in defamation case

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on his attempt to recapture the $1.27 million award for defamation the jury made against Conservative Party founder and former leader Colin Craig.

It was such a big win  – the largest defamation award in New Zealand, and the maximum Williams had sought – that a High Court judge set it aside, and the Court of Appeal looks unlikely to reinstate it.

After the jury’s award was set aside and a new trial ordered, Williams appealed to have the jury’s verdicts upheld.

The Court of Appeal indicated that the damages probably could not stand.

If damages alone had to be assessed again, it was a question of whether the original trial judge could fix them; whether a jury might do so, based on a more limited body of evidence; or whether the whole case had to be run again.

Williams’ other lawyer, Peter McKnight, said Williams would agree to having the original trial judge fix damages, even though she appeared to have an adverse view about Williams in some respects.

That sounds like an acceptance that a lower award is inevitable, at best, and Williams obviously wants to retain the verdict.

Craig’s lawyer Stephen Mills, QC, said the Court of Appeal had to be satisfied the jury had not reached its decisions through “gross prejudice”.

Craig wants a new trial to have another chance at defending himself.

The original judgment took a long time. The judgment in Slater v Craig is taking a long time – the case was hear in May.

It seems unlikely a decision will be made here before the end of the year.

Craig’s poem back in court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this claim was opposed.

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

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

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

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

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

The hearing continues.

But ‘Whaleoil staff’ state:

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

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

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

Taxpayers’ Union response to Spinoff apology

Jordan Williams has responded to the Spinoff apology and has demanded answers. There are suggestions of a thick plot here.

Retraction and apology received from the Spinoff

The full retraction and apology by the Spinoff, relating to allegations that were totally false and defamatory, contained in an article by Simon Wilson, and published on the Spinoff website morning, is welcome.

The Spinoff has accepted that the Taxpayers’ Union (including its affiliate the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance) and the three people named in the original article had no role in the distribution of feathers. The Spinoff has apologised for making the allegation and rewritten the article.

We want to know how the Spinoff got this so wrong, and why they didn’t even bother to approach us for comment before publishing.  Both organisations operate 24-hour phone lines for media comment. We couldn’t be more available.

The Spinoff is funded by Auckland Council through its “Heart of the City” lobby group.  We want to be satisfied that the Spinoff was not acting pursuant to the Council’s interest in distracting attention from the finalisation of the Council’s budget.

This suggests there could be a thick plot here.

It’s fair to ask how the incorrect accusation came about.

Taxpayers’ Union denies white feathers

Jordan Williams has emphatically denied the Taxpayers’ Union having anything to do with emailing white feathers or sticking them on councillors doors.

It’s not the sort of story someone is likely to dream up, so there’s some explaining to be done – in the first instance by The Spinoff who made the claim on a story.

The Spinoff has been threatened with defamation action.

Taxpayers’ Union: SPINOFF ARTICLE ON “WHITE FEATHERS” TOTALLY WRONG

The Taxpayers’ Union, its founders Jordan Williams and David Farrar, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, and its spokesperson Jo Holmes, totally reject the allegation made on the Spinoff website today that they have sent ‘white feathers’ (either physically or electronically) to Auckland Councillors or have acted in any unethical way in relation to the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance “Ratepayer Protection Pledge” signed by approximately a dozen Auckland Councillors, prior to last year’s elections.

The Spinoff’s publisher and the article’s author have been sent a letter putting them on notice of the defamatory allegation, and unless an apology and full retraction is received prior to 5pm today, advice in relation to filing defamation proceedings will be sought.

Fair enough asking for a retraction and apology, but that’s very heavy handed.

So it’s up to The Spinoff to substantiate or retract.

UPDATE:

UPDATE 2:

The Spinoff has added at the top of their story:

NB: An earlier version of this story attributed the distribution of white feathers to The Taxpayers’ Union, a charge the organisation has since vigourously denied. The Spinoff has since been told that the feathers were in fact distributed anonymously, and accepts that The Taxpayers’ Union had no role in the distribution of the feathers. The story has now been updated to reflect this. The Spinoff apologises to the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams, David Farrar and Jo Holmes for the error.

And they have updated their story:

First, how nasty can council politics get? Right now, it’s this nasty: councillors who didn’t vote for public consultation on the rates rises have been sent a white feather – as a mark of their “cowardice”.

The Spinoff understands white feathers were anonymously emailed to nine councillors in the form of a certificate, though at least two are said to have received a real feather at their homes.

The strategy comes straight from the playbook of the Tea Party in the US: they don’t bother much with left-leaning politicians, except to abuse them, but prefer to target the centre-right. And it’s predominantly centre-right aligned councillors who are alleged to have received these feathers.

There must be some reason why Simon Wilson at The Spinoff linked the Taxpayers’ Union to the feathers, either in error or he was incorrectly informed. I think an explanation is in order here.

Taxpayers’ Union deliver white feathers – claim

This is looking a bit ugly from the Taxpayers’ Union.

The Spinoff: Threats, legal threats and cowardice: Auckland Council’s budget battle gets nasty

First, how nasty can council politics get? Right now, it’s this nasty: councillors who didn’t accept that the next rates rise should be limited to 2 percent have been sent a white feather – as a mark of their “cowardice”.

The white feathers were emailed to nine councillors in the form of a certificate, by [Deleted – the original post has been edited with an apology for incorrectly linking the taxpayers’ Union to the sending of the white feathers. See Taxpayers’ Union denies white feathers – PG]

The strategy comes straight from the playbook of the Tea Party in the US: they don’t bother much with left-leaning politicians, except to abuse them, but prefer to target the centre-right.

And there are claims it has gone further than emailing.

If true that’s getting quite ugly.

Disagreement and criticism is an important part of politics, but gutless attacks on people’s homes is crossing a dirty line in my opinion.

Even emailing white feathers is borderline at best.

[Update – The Spinoff has accepted they got it wrong about the Taxpayers’ Union being involved and have apologised. This leaves unanswered about who sent the feather emails, who stuck feathers on councillors doors, and why Simon Wilson thought that the Taxpayers’ Union was involved. Was it a false assumption, being given false information or was it a setup?]

Craig versus MacGregor resuming today

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

Pete Belt at Whale Oil said yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

MacGregor gives evidence

Rachel MacGregor started giving evidence in the Craig v Slater defamation trial yesterday. Some odf the details are already known but MacGregor emphasises how she felt about her relationship with Craig.

NZ Herald: Rachel MacGregor gives evidence in Colin Craig v Cameron Slater defamation trial

Colin Craig’s former press secretary Rachel MacGregor says despite the politician’s “dodgy poems”, shoulder massages and “sleep trick” she felt she was forced to stay in the job.

She said during her time at TVNZ she had put up with “inappropriate males”, but that Craig’s mention that the cut of her top was too low, followed by a letter, made her feel uneasy.

She said she outlaid her concerns and the pair talked of setting professional boundaries.

“As we know with Colin Craig he likes to do things in a weird way, a kind of quirky way.”

She thought the pair had a “good working relationship” after the boundaries were established, before Craig “had gone and broken them”.

She told the court she was curious to see what Craig had written but “was really offended” by the “really bad poems”.

“It was awful actually, especially because he was going into detail about me physically, it was really disgusting.”

Just days before her resignation, while on a flight from Napier to Auckland on September 14, 2014, Craig claims MacGregor said: “You know me better than anyone, Colin … I want to be more than just your press secretary”.

“I absolutely guarantee you that I never propositioned Mr Craig for me to be anything more than his press secretary … it is very convenient for Mr Craig’s story,” MacGregor said.

Henry asked MacGregor about an incident on election night in 2011, when Craig kissed MacGregor and touched her breast.

MacGregor said she stopped the incident and “lost faith” in Craig.

“I thought that he was trustworthy, but I lost a lot of trust in him,” MacGregor said.

“I still wanted to keep my job, the car that I [drove], Colin owned … I had to keep my job to stay afloat really.”

Craig will cross-examine MacGregor today.

In the meantime MacGregor has spoken out about how media has treated her at The Wireless in Rachel MacGregor has had enough of the media’s bullshit

Since it began last week, the Colin Craig trial – in which he and Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater are suing each other over defamatory statements each said the other published about them – has quickly replaced the Eminem v National fiasco as the nation’s favourite silly trial.

It is easy to see how the case has become the focus of such schadenfreude: the men are seen by many as repugnant, the poems are ridiculous and there is entertainment to be had.

It’s been three years since she left her job as press secretary to then-Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, alleging that in during her time working for him she had suffered ongoing sexual harassment. Craig denied the allegations.

Rachel MacGregor has not found it so funny.

It’s been three years since she left her job as press secretary to then-Conservative Party leader Colin Craig, alleging that in during her time working for him she had suffered ongoing sexual harassment. Craig denied the allegations.

Slater published documents and articles alleging the claims were correct and the pair have been fighting about it ever since.

During those three years, MacGregor’s efforts to put the incident in the past have been repeatedly thwarted, and as Craig’s many litigious issues play out in court and in public she has become a reluctant recurring figure in the media.

The Craig and Slater trial is yet another block in the road.

And MacGregor complains about how some of the media has covered her involvement, and specifically complained about a semi-satirical piece in NZ Herald (which has had an odd way of covering the current trial)..

Bound by a confidentiality agreement with Craig, MacGregor feels she’s “essentially been gagged”- leaving media outlets free, it seems, to editorialise her role in a case of creative licence not generally associated with the news media.

She tries to address her concerns without breaching the confidentiality agreement

Braunias in particular seems to have chosen to run with the narrative of a consensual relationship describing Craig’s “unholy lust” for MacGregor with whom he had been “formerly in a relationship that started with a kiss and never actually went any further”.

Huh? As Cameron Slater said of the relationship in court on Friday (and you know things are bad when you’re quoting Cameron Slater) “there was no evidence at all, and there still is no evidence that it was reciprocated in any way”. Since when were sexual harassment victims fair game for satire?

While MacGregor is unable to comment on her relationship with Craig, the tone of the satire has disturbed her.

“It’s absolutely misrepresenting me, and it’s making a joke out of an issue that’s actually very serious.”

And difficult for her to address.

From the outside it seems like a kind of purgatory – both central and peripheral to a highly public, and somehow neverending series of disputes, she has somehow found herself cast as a plot device, her humanity and agency long since forgotten in this war between dreadful men.

The men involved in this case and in Williams v Craig – Colin Craig, Cameron Slater and Jordan Williams – have been guilty of some dreadful behaviour. This has been revealed in their arguments over defamation, with MacGregor caught in the middle, gagged.

“Unfortunately, this story does involve me to quite a large degree,” she tells me. “Even though the court case itself is not about me, it unfortunately is about me, if that makes sense.”

Though her own case with Craig has been through the Human Rights Tribunal, neither party are permitted to discuss the particulars of the case due to a confidentiality agreement (a clause Craig was found to have breached by speaking about her in media interviews).

MacGregor has kept her end of the deal – something which has left her open to speculation and judgment.

One way or another, women who report their abusers rarely go unpunished. MacGregor’s ordeal is a startling reminder that, when given the chance, the old guard media are ready and willing to partake in that punishment.

It is telling that, in a society now entirely familiar with the concepts of rape culture and victim blaming, we are so keen to sidestep Craig’s alleged actions, while projecting an assumed narrative on such a complex and troubling situation.

One could argue that the target here is Craig’s inherent strangeness – those are some pretty wack poems after all. But by choosing to find him ridiculous we run the risk of normalising what may have been reprehensible actions while also re-victimising MacGregor. Without knowing the full detail of the Human Rights Tribunal case, we just don’t know.

“I guess my message is, please take what you read with a grain of salt and try to understand the context in which it’s been written,” she says.

“Until you have the facts, just withhold judgment and try to think about this a little bit more deeply than just having a laugh about it.”

Most of us will are unlikely to know all of the facts.

As far as I’m aware she hasn’t chosen to be involved in these public legal spectacles. In Williams v Craig she made it clear to Williams she didn’t want anything revealed or published.

I have posted this to give MacGregor more of an opportunity to air her views, albeit limited by the confidentiality agreement.

I won’t allow this to be used as an opportunity to promote agendas, or to make one-sided or unfounded claims or claims based on confidential information, or to attack or criticise MacGregor personally.