MacGregor files lawsuit against Craig

It was revealed recently that Colin Craig had filed defamation proceedings against Rachel MacGregor in November last year but hadn’t served her. He said he may or may not proceed with it.

MacGregor said that the media report was the first she knew about it.

Today from NZ Herald:  Rachel MacGregor files lawsuit against Colin Craig

Last week Radio New Zealand reported that Craig was planning to sue MacGregor for defamation if he lost the case against Whale Oil.

But Craig denied that report to the Herald, saying he had “historically” considered suing MacGregor but decided against it.

In response MacGregor said she had been advised that Craig’s “failure” to serve those proceedings on her or her lawyers for several months was a breach of the High Court rules.

Craig confirmed to the Herald that defamation papers had been filed last November, but would not say whether they had been served to MacGregor, whether it was an abuse of process, and whether he planned to withdraw the defamation suit as requested.

The Herald can reveal that MacGregor is counter-suing Craig and filed papers in the High Court at Auckland today.

It is understood those papers have been served on Craig.

“When media alerted me that Mr Craig had sued me I sought legal advice,” she told the Herald tonight.

“That advice was that I needed to file a document by today in order to protect my legal position.

“I will not be commenting further at this stage as the matter is before the court.”

The defamation saga involving MacGregor, Craig, Jordan Williams, Cameron Slater and John Stringer has yet another complication.

 

Statement from Rachel MacGregor

Statement from Rachel MacGregor

I have become aware that Colin Craig filed defamation proceedings against me in November last year.

Despite filing those proceedings nearly seven months ago, Mr Craig has not served papers on either me or my lawyers. I only became aware of the claim after media comments by Mr Craig in the last few days.

My understanding is that the proceedings relate to matters that I consider were resolved in mediation before the Human Rights Commission and in my subsequent case before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

I have been advised that Mr Craig’s failure to serve those proceedings on me (or my lawyers) for several months is a breach of the High Court rules. It is unclear to me why Mr Craig would want to file proceedings but not give me notice of them.

I strongly believe Mr Craig’s claim against me is an abuse of process.

Over the last year I have been dragged unwillingly into being a witness in two Court proceedings by Mr Craig and others. I have been required to give evidence that was both highly personal and highly distressing.

I would like to get on with my life.

I invite Mr Craig to put an end to this by withdrawing these proceedings.

I intend to make no further comment at this time.

Craig files defamation papers against MacGregor

Good grief!

RNZ:  Colin Craig files papers to sue former press secretary Rachel MacGregor

Colin Craig has filed papers in the High Court in Auckland to sue his former press secretary for defamation.

Mr Craig has confirmed to RNZ the papers have been filed against Rachel MacGregor but said the case would only go ahead if his case against Cameron Slater did not go in his favour.

That case finished last week, with Justice Toogood reserving his decision.

In that case, Mr Craig sued Mr Slater for posts he made on his Whale Oil blog about Mr Craig and his relationship with Ms MacGregor. Mr Slater counter-sued Mr Craig for statements made in a leaflet sent out to 1.6 million households around the country.

Ms MacGregor said she was not aware of the new proceedings until contacted by RNZ.

She said she had not been served with documents, and declined to comment.

Mr Craig said he would not go into details about the case but confirmed it was a defamation proceeding.

As I understand it MacGregor’s evidence in the recent Craig v Slater trial cannot be defamation as it was stated in court. I wasn’t aware MacGregor had said much publicly outside court. My guess is that Human Rights Commission mediation details can’t be used in defamation either.

In the recent case:  Colin Craig threatened to ‘destroy’ Rachel MacGregor, court told

Rachel MacGregor has told a court that Colin Craig threatened her by saying he’d set aside $1 million to “destroy” her.

Craig’s former press secretary claims the threat was made during a Human Rights Commission mediation after she brought a sexual harassment complaint against him.

The sexual harassment complaint had been withdrawn as a result of their settlement agreement, but Henry asked MacGregor whether she had withdrawn the allegations.

“There is no way I have ever withdrawn my allegations,” MacGregor said.

“To this day my allegations stand concrete strong. I withdrew my complaint because I had no longer time or energy to deal with this very weird man. I withdrew the complaint because I couldn’t afford to deal with him any more.”

It looks like Craig is becoming a full time litigant.

New lawsuit one of at least five before the courts

Mr Craig said he has taken what he called a “limited approach” in his defamation cases. So far he has sued Mr Slater and a board member of the Conservative Party, John Stringer.

This is a limited approach?

His case against Ms MacGregor is one of at least five before the courts at present.

Last year the head of the taxpayer’s union, Jordan Williams, sued Colin Craig over comments he made about Mr Williams in a booklet sent to 1.6 million households around New Zealand.

The jury found in Mr Williams’ favour and awarded him $1.27 million in damages – the highest amount ever in a New Zealand defamation case. That was reviewed by the trial judge, Justice Katz, who found it to be excessive. Both parties are appealing.

Mr Craig has also sued John Stringer, a former board member of the Conservative Party. That was settled out of court but Mr Stringer is now bringing another case against Mr Craig.

Mr Craig has also sued Cameron Slater over copyright in the Auckland District Court, after Mr Slater published Mr Craig’s poems on his blog. Mr Craig lost the case. He is also appealing against that decision to the High Court.

Lastly, there is the defamation case against Cameron Slater which concluded last week.

In April Newshub reported a sixth case:  Colin Craig suing again

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is involved in another defamation case.

This time he’s suing a former employee for $240,000.

His claim alleges a defamatory publication was posted by Jacqueline Stiekema on a Facebook page and that she made other defamatory publications to a third person.

It will be heard in the District Court rather than the High Court, according to a recent decision by High Court Associate Judge Roger Bell.

Truthful comment and genuine opinion is fine but please be careful what you say about Craig here.

Craig v Slater – trial summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig has disappeared since he stepped down as leader.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reported during the trial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Braunias:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig: “Did you form any impression?”

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

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

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

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

The key points as I see it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig 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 versus Craig

Yesterday Colin Craig cross examined Rachel MacGregor in the Craig v Slater defamation trial. She was very different to when she gave evidence in Williams v Craig, in this case making a range of serious accusations against Craig.

What has changed? Time. Craig questioning MacGregor rather than via a lawyer. Fed up with being dragged through court again?

The reactions of MacGregor in court yesterday makes me wonder what has sparked what appears to be an all out attack on Craig.

MacGregor was called to give evidence by Slater’s legal team, not by Craig. And Craig chose to defend himself, this may be backfiring badly.

RNZ: Former staffer says Craig tried to pressure her into sex

Ms MacGregor told the court the former head of the Conservative Party did not pay for the work she invoiced for.

Instead he paid her advances because they could not agree on her hourly rate.

He also gave her an $18,000 loan that included interest at 29 percent. Mr Craig began charging her interest once she left her job.

Ms MacGregor told the court Mr Craig was trying to put her under financial pressure so she would sleep with him.

She said it was also convenient he had deleted text messages that would disgust the court and the New Zealand public if they were revealed.

Stuff: MacGregor accuses Craig of doctoring texts

On Wednesday when Craig, who is representing himself, cross examined his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, she refused to accept the authenticity of text exchanges shown in the screenshots.

“Just to be clear I don’t accept any of these text messages,” MacGregor said.

“Why’s that, Ms MacGregor?” Justice Toogood asked.

MacGregor said she doubted Craig had been able to take screenshots from his old Nokia cellphone.

“I do [doubt it] because he has doctored so many of these text messages,” she said to Justice Toogood.

The screenshots were selective in that they mostly showed texts MacGregor sent, but many of Craig’s texts were missing, the court had earlier heard.

“Also I believe that you got these text messages from a convicted criminal with dishonesty charges,” she said.

“Unless you can get something from a reliable source – not someone who’s been in jail – then I’m not prepared to give evidence off documents like this.”

MacGregor was referring to former Christchurch detective Mike Chappell, who was convicted on 10 dishonesty charges in 2002, and who Craig employed to recover texts forensically.

The text evidence did look shaky.

In court on Wednesday, when Craig persisted by trying to confirm whether she had sent a text offering to “loosen up his shoulders,” MacGregor rose to her feet and asked Justice Toogood: “Why are you accepting this, considering it’s come from a criminal?”

“Mr Craig is entitled to put it to you because his evidence is that these are legitimate text exchanges between you,” Justice Toogood said.

“I’m just wanting you to understand that this is your opportunity to influence the findings of fact that I might make. This is your only opportunity to do that.”

“I don’t understand how this is an opportunity for me,” said MacGregor, who was under subpoena to give evidence.

She began to cry, and said to Craig: “You put me under huge pressure during this time. I can’t believe I’m being made to stand in front of the man that did this to me.”

MacGregor has been forced into this situation, but she certainly came out firing against Craig yesterday.

NZ Herald: Colin Craig v Cameron Slater – The end is nigh

Their defamation trial looks set to fizzle out on Friday, Monday at latest, forcing Justice Kit Toogood to bend his red gleaming head to the task of finding justice in the swirling mess of a sexless sex scandal.

Craig, the former leader of the Conservative Party, claims Cameron Slater libelled him on his Whale Oil blog. Slater has responded in kind, citing Craig’s booklet Dirty Politics.

Much of their argument concerns what can be reasonably said about Craig’s relationship with his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

MacGregor was called to give evidence against Craig. She did not want to appear. More to the point she demonstrably did not want to be in the same room as Craig.

MacGregor’s loathing for Craig could be felt all through the upstairs courtroom. It was like a stiff breeze moving in from the South Pole. It iced over the black-patterned carpet, it sealed the door, perhaps it turned down the central heating.

He read out a text that he said she had once sent him: “Miss you. Thank you being so wonderful.”

She said it was a fake text, that he’d doctored it. Justice Toogood interrupted, and read out other texts that Craig has produced in evidence. One to her parents, another to a friend. Did she accept those texts were real? She accepted they most likely were.

She also disputed a memo. “I’m sorry, Your Honour, but I’m just not comfortable with it,” she said.

“Well,” said Toogood, “comfortable or not, it’s part of the evidence of Mr Craig that he has sent to you, Miss MacGregor, so he’s entitled to ask you questions about it.”

While MacGregor has been forced by subpoena to appear as a witness it seems like she may have been schooled up for this appearance.

The case also adjourned early on Tuesday. This seems odd after the judge complained last week about how the case was dragging out.

According to ‘Whaleoil Staff’ today will be a day off, no reason given, and the case will resume with Craig’s cross examination of MacGregor on Friday.

Whale Oil was down in the dumps after Monday in court, thought it was the “best day in court ever!” on Tuesday and described yesterday as “a red letter day in court”.

Since things have been going better for Team Slater Whale Oil posts have been appearing in the evening and then more or less repeated the following morning.

Only getting snippets via media and Whale oil it is hard to know how the trial is going for both sides, apart from highlighting some shoddy stuff from both.

I have seen quite a bit to dislike about both Craig and Slater. I’m really not sure what to make of MacGregor this time in court. I’m sure she’s been poorly treated by Craig, and relationship breakdowns (professional or personal) can result in acrimony and sometimes payback. I’m not in a position to judge what exactly is going on in this case between MacGregor and Craig, except that it looks ugly.

I expect the judge will reserve his decision and then take some time to go over everything before giving his judgment.

MacGregor claims Craig threatened her

In the Craig v Slater defamation case today Rachel MacGregor has alleged that Colin Craig threatened to ‘destroy” her.

Yesterday things too a turn for the worse for Slater. Today it looks bad for Craig – but there will be more to come which could swing either way.

Stuff: Colin Craig threatened to ‘destroy’ Rachel MacGregor, court told

Rachel MacGregor has told a court that Colin Craig threatened her by saying he’d set aside $1 million to “destroy” her.

MacGregor said that during the mediation, “Colin was adamantly saying he treated me like a sister”.

“Colin was just saying, ‘yeah well I’d kiss my sister, I’d do what I said in the letter to my sister. Me and my lawyer thought it was absurd.

“The only other thing I remember, was that he said he set aside a million dollars and that he was going to destroy me.”

The sexual harassment complaint had been withdrawn as a result of their settlement agreement, but Henry asked MacGregor whether she had withdrawn the allegations.

“There is no way I have ever withdrawn my allegations,” MacGregor said.

“To this day my allegations stand concrete strong. I withdrew my complaint because I had no longer time or energy to deal with this very weird man. I withdrew the complaint because I couldn’t afford to deal with him any more.”

Henry asked MacGregor how she felt when Craig breached the confidentiality of their settlement agreement by speaking publicly about her at a press conference in June 2015.

“I was mortified. He was trying to make me out to be crazy. He was trying to fudge the facts.”

It will be up to Craig to try to deal with this in cross examination.

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.

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.

MacGregor found not to have breached confidentiality agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[122] In mitigation his main points were:

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

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

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

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

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

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