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.

He said if they found Craig had sent pamphlet because of feelings of ill-will towards Williams, they couldn’t use defence of qualified privilege – the right to defend against an attack.

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

The love letters and poems were proof Williams didn’t lie about Craig sexually harassing MacGregor, who suddenly resigned from her role as his press secretary two days before the 2014 election.

Time and time again the jury had heard from Craig his relationship with MacGregor was “a brother, sister relationship”, McKnight told the jury.

“You should reject that – the letters speak for themselves.”

When he broke MacGregor’s confidence and told others about the harassment, Williams decided “enough was enough” and that it was time the “explosive information” came to light.

And In the end, rightly or wrongly he decided to act, McKnight said.

In his final statement to the jury, the lawyer told them to award Williams the full $1.34 million he sought in damages from Craig.

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

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

I have waited to publish this until the jury retires and reviews the evidence.  And I will also refrain from making a prediction on the outcome at this stage.

In my mind, it is almost certain that no matter the verdict, the result will be an appeal.

Mr Craig’s view is that he was unjustly smeared with lies, and his booklet was a reasonable and proportionate response.  Mr Williams’ view is that the issues Mr Craig considers lies are in fact true or substantially true based on honest opinion at the time.  In return, Mr Craig has published demonstrably untrue statements in his booklet, and the bar to justify ‘self defence’, in the way Mr Craig exercised it, was not met.

It’s up to the jury now.


– Amelia Wade, NZ Herald

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