Lessons for Crazy Colin from David Lange

David Cohen writes at the NBR about some lessons for Colin Craig:

A jury has found that the onetime Conservative Party leader Colin Craig defamed Taxpayers Union founder Jordan Williams. The country has found out a lot more about Mr Craig’s style of office management and questionable poetic skills. So what was in the widely covered case for the media to discover?

Mr Craig’s whopping loss – the jury ordered that he pay a plump $1.27m in total – has been described as a classic defeat for the onetime political aspirant who has spent a significant amount of time in recent years launching his own defamation actions against some critics.

Indeed Mr Craig first came to many people’s attention in 2013 when he threatened a satirical news website with legal action after claiming it published a story designed, as a lawyer’s letter put it, “to make him look ridiculous.”

On the face of it that action only seemed to underscore the proposition being argued against, as well as suggesting Mr Craig had no idea about the purpose of satire.

A year later, of course, he was at it again with another defamation suit, this time against the Green Party’s Russel Norman for having effectively accused the Conservative Party leader of being a conservative in his views on homosexuals and women – at which point the expensive arguments seemed to be getting inexplicably ridiculous.

In life as in law, though, arguments are sometimes not about what they’re about.

Read more »

Who is afraid of being sued by Colin Craig?


Who is afraid of being sued by Colin Craig? If the flurry of articles in the media critical of Colin Craig are anything to go by I would say almost 100% fewer people than the day before Jordan Williams won his defamation case against Colin in court.

Media and individuals had good reason to be afraid. Not many men have the kind of money that allows them to silence critics with merely the threat of a lawsuit. Colin Craig is a very wealthy man with deep pockets. So deep in fact that he thought nothing of spending almost 2 million dollars of his and his wife’s money on a vanity project that they both felt ” passionate ” about.

Before Mr Craig lost to Mr Williams editors were vigilant, telling their journalists to dial it back whenever they strayed into subject matter that might attract Craig’s legal attention. After all, Mr Craig has a history of threatening to sue people whenever they say something he doesn’t like. The satirical site The Civilian, for example, caught his attention and was threatened with legal action. They swiftly backed down but maintained their satirical bent with a carefully crafted apology.

“We retract the statement and apologise to Mr Craig for any harm we have caused to his impeccable reputation. We would like to note that we have also taken the additional measure of bolding the statement in question so that everybody knows which thing it was that Mr Craig did not say.”

-The Civilian

Since Jordan William’s win, however, it seems as if the Editors have turned to their journalists and said, “Go ahead, knock yourselves out, say whatever you like.”

If you think I am exaggerating here are some quotes from satirical site, The Spinoff.

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Colin Craig commits to the long game of beating Williams, Stringer and me in court

Colin Craig is digging in for the long haul:

“We put 10 years of savings into it, we gave it all our heart and soul, it was our number one priority and we lived it for three years – we absolutely care about it, it’s a passion for us.

“Whether there’s an opportunity to be involved in the future, there’s a lot of water that’s got to go under the bridge before we can answer that question.”

He got “very uninvolved” in his business affairs while running for election, and says that’s also on the backburner.

Instead, his number one priority is dealing with his legal disputes, as well as spending more time with his children and wife Helen, who stood by his side throughout the defamation trial.

“I have an amazing wife, children that I love and who love me, and a strong family network, that’s very valuable at times like this.”

Read more »

So who was the spy?

If you didn’t think the Colin Craig shenanigans could get any there is spy in the mix.

A suspicious man wearing dark sunglasses and a black jacket spotted lurking around Jordan Williams’ lawyers’ chambers during the Colin Craig defamation trial worried his team that he was a spy.

It turned out to be a witness who was later subpoenaed but Williams’ legal team tried to link the “so called lurking incident” to Craig.

In judicial minutes released to media today, Justice Sarah Katz detailed the drama which happened at the end of the first week of the trial heard at the Auckland High Court.

Justice Katz said on Monday, September 12 she received an email from Williams’ lawyer Peter McKnight about an “incident of concern” the previous Friday evening.

When they were leaving the lawyer’s chambers, they saw “a man with black square glasses ([t dusk] and a black jacket, peering into the foyer, seemingly attempting to read the tenant information”.   Read more »

Dancing on the head of a legal pin

Colin Craig’s lawyer, Stephen Mills QC, says they will appeal on the basis that the jury did not consider the argument of qualified privilege.

That is simply dancing on the head of a legal pin.

Here is the problem. The jury was given what is called a Question Trail. That is a trail of questions they need to answer in a logical manner to step them through the legal complexity of defamation law. The judge spent two hours summing up and directing the jury on how to use this Question trail to come to their decisions.

The Question Trail was drafted by Craig’s lawyer, then approved by Jordan’s lawyer and then finally by the Judge. Mills drafted the Question Trail to start with the defence of Qualified Privilege, then move to truth when that failed and then to honest opinion after that.

The Question Trail contained 14 questions, and there were two counts, so the jury had to step through 28 questions and write up their reasoning beside each one and hand that to the judge after the verdict was given.

The first few questions stepped through qualified privilege. They would not have been required to step through any more questions if the jury had considered qualified privilege and decided it applied. They clearly passed through those questions after quite some time…they deliberated for 10 hours.   Read more »

Colin Craig’s lawyer got it wrong, writes a first year law student

This one is from the mailbag.  

Year 13 Student got it right, Mr Mills QC got it wrong. As a first year law student, she writes again.

Dear Sir

I believe that Mr Craig should be gracious in defeat as I wrote a letter to you previously that I believed that he had maliciously attacked you, and numerous others, but with him arguing that he had been defamed.

I was not surprised at the outcome with one exception, why the ceiling in damages?

Mr Craig attempting to have another High Court Judge review the findings of the jury is to merely limit the amounts of damages in the Williams matter, given that he faces a counterclaim from you on his defamation proceedings against you.

If I was advising Mr Craig I would try and negotiate a deal of $800k with Mr Williams, and an out of court settlement on costs, not admitting to indemnity payments.

If I was advising you I would argue a dollar per pamphlet as a minimum, and if the jury found exemplary damages were established on a civil threshold of beyond the balance of probabilities, I would seek a graduated scale per 10 thousand pamphlets similar to the Richter Scale, but I would refer to it as the Craig-scale. I would seek, if pushed to trial, a minimum of $10m, and if settled prior to trial $4m, reflecting that the settlement was evidence of his regret, and that the amount would remain confidential. Read more »

“Not since Len Brown has a politician been so cringe worthy”*

(*This is a note for Mr Craig, the following is not written by me.  I am however quoting it)

Not since Len Brown has a politician been so cringe worthy. The nation winced as the Colin Craig defamation trial dished up excruciatingly intimate details about the Conservative Party leader’s relationship with former aide Rachel MacGregor.

There is only one thing more fatal to a politician’s future prospects than not being talked about and that’s being laughed at. On that score, Craig’s Conservative Party is already dog tucker.

Craig will appeal the verdict and the record $1.27 million defamation payout to Taxpayer’s Union boss Jordan Williams.

But it’s what the trial said about Craig’s appalling lack of judgement that will really hammer the final nail in his political ambitions. When allegations about Craig and MacGregor surfaced, 1.6 million pamphlets were mailed out to every household attacking Williams as the source and labelling him a liar.

Any advisor would have counselled Craig against giving the allegations any oxygen.

And any lawyer would have advised him that the pamphlets were actionable. Read more »

Why Colin Craig is pissing in the wind

A person with experience and qualifications writes:

Colin got slapped with punitive damages.  That is very rare in New Zealand.  Even rarer with a jury.

That says that not only did Colin defame Jordan Williams, but that he was exceptionally and unjustifiably over the top in his defamation.

Those will NOT be overturned by any appeal.

It also means that the Court of Appeal will throw out the qualified privilege argument, because the application of punitive damages shows the jury considered everything.

If Craig was successful on qualified privilege in this case then he would never have been hit with punitive damages.

Williams v Craig: and now we wait…

The 11-person jury in the trial retired to begin deliberating on whether Mr Craig had defamed Mr Williams and, if he did, how much the payout should be.

The case is the first jury trial for defamation at the High Court in Auckland since 2002 and the transcript of the four weeks of evidence is more than 1000 pages.

The number of questions the jurors have to answer is possibly the most of any defamation trial ever in New Zealand.

Summing up the case for the jurors, Justice Sarah Katz told them to disregard how they felt about the parties.

“This is not a popularity contest. This is a court of law.”

Mr Williams has told the court he went to senior Conservative Party officials after Ms MacGregor confided in him about alleged sexual harassment by Mr Craig, including touching, comments, and romantic letters and poems. Read more »

Williams v Craig

As you read this, Judge Katz will be summing up or has recently finished.  The jury will retire and consider a verdict.   Yesterday, both Mr Mills and Mr McKnight provided closing arguments.

Amelia Wade was at court

…[Colin Craig’s] lawyer, Stephen Mills QC, kicked off the closing statements by echoing his opening remarks that the case was not about the politician’s former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

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

After MacGregor’s shock resignation, she allegedly told Williams that Craig, the former leader of the Conservative Party, had sexually harassed her through texts, cards and letters.

It included “and the now infamous” poem with the line: “you are beautiful because you have the most perfect dot dot dot”.

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

“From the very outset … he formed the absolutely fixed and unshakable view that Mr Craig had to go.”

Mills said Craig distributed the Dirty Politics pamphlet to 1.6 million households across New Zealand and held the press conference, because after the attacks he needed to defend his reputation.

He was standing up for what he thought was the right way to conduct politics in New Zealand his reputation had taken a hit from the “incredibly damaging” allegations, Mills said.

“If you are a politician and you are made a laughing stock, it’s not survivable is it?”

But Craig didn’t go away quietly.

“He fought back, which is how we got here.”

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

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

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

Then, Mr McKnight summed up. Read more »