Braunias phones it in

What to make of the shabby and often excruciating slow-motion train wreck smashing into tiny pieces every day at courtroom 14 in the High Court at Auckland, where former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater are talking about sex while going at each other in a defamation counterclaim?

Craig claims Slater wrote libellous things about his conduct with his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor and “other victims”. Slater claims Craig wrote libellous things in response. Yeah, whatever. It’s all so unseemly. And kind of pathetic. Not even titillating. “Please,” emailed one of our most cherished broadcasters this week, when I mentioned to her how I was spending my days, “make it stop”.

Apart from the fact he isn’t a court reporter and doesn’t know how boring every other case is when they get down to the details, he is actually right. ?Mr Craig’s examination of Cam Slater’s testimony is repetitive, clumsy and fails to assist the court in understanding what the hell he’s trying to get at. ?

I like court. I like the routine. I have the same breakfast every morning at McDonald’s in Britomart, and always say hello to the Jehovah’s Witness couple who stand in a nearby doorway. I see the same people in court. There’s Brian Henry, taking notes with his beautiful Staedtler fine-nibbed pens in green and brown, and there’s his glamorous assistant, Charlotte Foster, making her trial debut.

There’s Cameron Slater, who was very chummy those first few days; I’ve always liked his company and his antic wit, and there was a time when I considered working for him.
He didn’t talk to me on Thursday. I wrote a court report which perhaps rather mocked his performance on the witness stand. Slater is of the Christian faith. There was a strange moment in his cross-examination when Slater and Craig compared notes on their prayers.

He wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. ?He didn’t talk to me either. ? Plus, he was kind of focused. ?Hard to believe really, as his answers rambled on in responses to Mr Craig’s attempts to drive to a point nobody understood.

And so there’s Craig, the politician manque (everybody’s got something to hide, including a manque), with his soft-faced McKenzie friend Tom Cleary beside him, much of the time going it alone, bashing through the jungles of his personal life.

Tom Cleary isn’t allowed to do anything but sit there and pass the next piece of paper along. ?If he so much as speaks, he’s out of the court. ?Not sure if Steve knows that, or if he’s using a literary device.

Craig’s argument with Slater is all mano a mano but the people who have to suffer it the most are two women. MacGregor is due to appear in court on Monday or Tuesday. This week, it was Helen Craig’s turn.

“Horrible…Deeply upsetting…Stressful…Horrible….A nightmare….Horrible,” she said in court. She was describing the trauma of reading Slater’s blog posts on Whaleoil. What about her husband’s long, secret history of “inappropriate” poems and all the rest of it? “I was not happy with Colin…I was hurt and annoyed.” Annoyed? Is that all? Improper to ask and even to wonder.

Private lives, private distresses. But there it is, in an open court of law, Colin Graeme Craig vs Cameron John Slater, one more week to go. At least it’s a judge-alone trial. A jury of 12 innocent men and women have been spared.

It may not end in one week. ?Had you been on the job instead of writing from your weekly recollections, like a real court reporter, you would know there was a bit of a twist this Friday.

And that things have suddenly got interesting.

But I agree with Steve that people are suffering. ?Rachel MacGregor is paying ?a heavy price for standing up against alleged sexual harassment and walking out on the Conservative Party two days before the general election.

It is generally understood she took the party from a 5%+ vote to oblivion. ?Worse, it was a personal rejection of Mr Craig.

Hell hath no fury like an accountant scorned.


– Steve Braunias, NZ Herald