Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is back in court, defending defamation action being taken against him.
Mr Craig is being sued by Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams, who says Mr Craig made false allegations about him in a leaflet and at a press conference in July last year.
A jury of seven men and five women has been selected for the trial before Justice Katz in the High Court at Auckland.
The trial could take up to five weeks.
Lawyers indicated a total of 27 witnesses were expected to give evidence, including Mr Williams and Mr Craig.
Slapping defamation suits on people has been somewhat of a go-to strategy for Colin Craig. Over the years it has been clear Mr Craig doesn’t actually mean to end up in court, rather counting on the silencing effect instead. It’s a good way to shut people up in a contest where the person with the most money has an upper hand.
He should have stuck to that strategy and not published his own Dirty Politics booklet that he had delivered to almost every household in New Zealand, and then followed it with a most remarkable press conference. The content of both were demonstrably inaccurate, and as a result Mr Craig faced legal action from Jordan Williams, John Stringer and Cameron Slater, the three main protagonists facing Craig’s attempt to silence his critics.
As a result, Craig suddenly faced three defamation suits himself.
Whereas Mr Craig never managed to actually bring any of his suits to court, and in fact he has been thought to never actually intend to do so, he now find himself in court for the first time at the end of a defamation suit he himself triggered.
This will be the first case out of three where all of Mr Craig’s statements, actions and intentions will be examined in front of the same people he wanted to be judged by: the public.
It is expected that one of the first steps Mr Craig will take is to insist on full suppression of the case. The reasoning will include that the evidence to be presented and examined will be of such a nature that, if Mr Craig were to succeed in defending himself in this case, he can’t unwind the clock once every bit of detail is already out there.
This in itself will be a remarkable move from a man who sent a booklet to nearly all New Zealanders with the basic request for the public to be the judge as to who was the liar: Mr Craig or the three people who were by and large the subject of his publication and press conference.
But as suppression is a likely outcome, not only is this article short of specifics, it is also unable to make a public case on behalf of Jordan Williams – even with facts already in the public domain. Such is the ‘strategy’ of using defamation proceedings to keep information from the public. It’s the ultimate gag order.
One of the pieces of evidence, the poem written by Colin Craig and given to Conservative party press secretary Rachel McGregor remains published on this site. It will have its day in court, along with a large number of other documents that have been provided through discovery.
They form the cornerstone of all three defamation cases brought by Williams, Stringer and Slater. All three are relying on Mr Craig’s own written word to frame their arguments.
All this kicked off almost two years ago when Conservative party press secretary Rachel McGregor quit just days before the general election claiming Mr Craig’s behaviour to be “un-Christian” and “manipulative”. Subsequent public statements that Mr Craig had used his position and wealth to persistently pursue a non-standard employer/employee relationship are now at the centre of the defamation cases brought against him.
Mr Craig stood next to his wife in a public press conference and stated that he neither sexually harassed anyone in his life, nor has he ever been anything but faithful to his wife.
Jordan Williams will now be the first in court to show the jury why any reasonable person would hold the belief that Mr Craig was not a faithful husband. Mr Craig on the other hand will defend his actions as those of a normal caring employer who simply got caught up in a situation where his generosity has been taken advantage of and misconstrued.