Craig v Slater Day 13 (media roundup)

Photo: Chris McKeen via Stuff

Yesterday was a red letter day in court as Rachel MacGregor provided testimony, first to Brian Henry and later in the day to Colin Craig.

This is what the media chose to report of it

Rachel MacGregor says New Zealand would be ‘disgusted’ at texts Colin Craig sent to her

Rachel MacGregor says if the New Zealand public could see the text messages Colin Craig sent her “they would be disgusted”.

“You’ve conveniently deleted all the text messages you’ve sent me. And if this court was to see them, they would be disgusted, as would the rest of New Zealand,” she said.

The former TVNZ journalist was cross-examined today by the former Conservative Party leader at the High Court in Auckland, as part of the ongoing defamation case between Craig and blogger Cameron Slater.

She said it took “a lot of guts” to resign as the Conservative Party’s press secretary just two days before the 2014 general election and leave the “dodgy as heck” Craig.

MacGregor earlier said she was “not going to sit here and allow” Craig’s “ridiculous” evidence to be heard, questioning why a judge was allowing it.

She was asked by Craig, who is representing himself, about a November 2011 text message, which the politician claims MacGregor sent to him.

“Thank you so much, such a treat, you really are wonderful – I hope there’s time for me to rub your shoulders tomorrow,” the text purportedly read.

Craig asked: “Do you accept, from time to time, you would offer to loosen up, in this case, my shoulders?”

MacGregor replied that Craig would be the first to initiate a request for a shoulder rub, but has said on several occasions she cannot recall what she may have said in a text.

During her cross-examination, MacGregor has also accused Craig several times of doctoring screen shots of text messages between the pair.

– NZ Herald

The satirist Steve Braunias reported

Colin Craig v Cameron Slater – The end is nigh

The end is nigh – huzzah! – of the indelicate matter of Craig v Slater in courtroom 14 at the High Court of Auckland.

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.

She took a complaint of sexual harassment to the Human Rights Commission. It was settled in mediation.

That, she had good cause to believe, would be that. But the details became public, and versions of it were published, leading to the stoush in courtroom 14, which by the way was intolerably cold on Wednesday.

Justice ought to be seen to be done with sufficient central heating.

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.

She positioned herself on Tuesday so that she directed all her answers to the judge; not once did she turn her head in Craig’s direction.

It was a determined but relatively straightforward procedure when she was being asked questions by Slater’s lawyer, Brian Henry. But it was a rather more difficult operation when Craig stood and began his cross-examination this morning.

They settled into a cold war. When he looked at her, she looked away; when he looked down at his papers, she looked at him. Their eyes met just the once. It was not overly fond.

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.

“Miss MacGregor,” he said to her.

“Mr Craig,” she answered.

It had come to this, acting out the roles of hostile witness and cool, calm interrogator, after four years of working closely together on the Conservative Party’s ultimately doomed attempt to get into Parliament.

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.”

She was more comfortable claiming that working for Craig was a constant woe. On the campaign trail, she said, she had to sleep on floors at the homes of Craig’s friends and supporters, because he refused to pay for a motel.

Once in a child’s bed that was too small for her.

Another time on the squabs of a couch: “I had to put my jacket over me for a blanket. I didn’t even have a duvet.”

All the cold rooms. With luck, courtroom 14 is the final space they ever have to share.

That will depend on the Stringer v Craig case going to trial.

The NZ Herald suddenly has found the energy to cover the trial from a number of angles.  Another piece

MacGregor unwittingly signed up to Conservative Party

MacGregor earlier said she was signed up as a member of the Conservative Party unwittingly.

Craig asked if the Conservative Party movement was “close to [MacGregor’s] heart” when she was employed by the party prior to the 2011 general election.

He also noted she was a signed member of the party.

“I didn’t personally become a member of the Conservative Party, but your secretary signed me up without my knowledge,” MacGregor said.

“You were trying to get 500 members and you, [party secretary] Kevin [Stitt], signed up every Tom, Dick, and Harry you could find. I didn’t know I’d be signed up until I got something in the mail … I never paid a subscription.”

Craig cited a memo from MacGregor which read how she’d researched the party’s relationship with the press.

“You were doing a bad job with the media, you needed some help,” she said, adding she didn’t align with the party’s policies because “even [Craig] didn’t know what the party was about at that point”.

Craig began his questioning of MacGregor by discussing her career history at TVNZ, including stories where she was required to travel overseas.

One story was an assignment in Rwanda, 10 years after the genocide.

“I don’t know how this is relevant?” MacGregor asked twice.

Justice Toogood replied: “Leave that up to me Miss MacGregor – I’m wondering the same thing myself.”

Sitting in the witness stand, MacGregor was growing seemingly frustrated as Craig was “jumping around” in his line of questioning by discussing events where she both worked for him and was employed elsewhere.

“Just trying to establish a timeline,” Craig quipped.

“You’re establishing a timeline, but you’re not doing a very good job of it,” MacGregor retorted, before Justice Toogood interrupted.

Craig said he was asking about MacGregor’s reporting history to determine if she thought a person who covered such stories displayed confidence and “some level of bravery and courage”.

“Or stupidity, yes,” MacGregor said.

On Monday MacGregor gave evidence about Craig’s “dodgy poems”, “sleep trick”, and relationship with the New Zealand media.

While yesterday, she continued by speaking of what was intended to be a confidential Human Rights Commission mediation hearing, where she said Craig mentioned “he’d set aside a million dollars and was going to destroy me”.

Craig is suing Slater, the blogger for website Whale Oil Beef Hooked, for defamation regarding sexual harassment allegations involving MacGregor.

In response to the allegations, Craig published a booklet called Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas which he distributed to more than a million households and held a press conference about Slater.

Radio New Zealand

Former staffer says Craig tried to pressure her into sex

Colin Craig’s former press secretary has told a court she was put under financial pressure to sleep with her boss.

Rachel MacGregor is giving evidence in the High Court in Auckland, where Mr Craig and the blogger Cameron Slater are suing each other for defamation.

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.

Harrison Christian at Stuff

MacGregor accuses Craig of doctoring texts

There have been emotional scenes at Colin Craig’s defamation trial, with Rachel MacGregor tearfully asking Justice Kit Toogood why he is accepting evidence from a “criminal”.

Screenshots purporting to be taken from an old phone of Craig’s have been presented by him as evidence in the Auckland High Court, where the former Conservative Party leader and Whaleoil blogger Cameron Slater are suing each other for defamation.

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.

Earlier in the trial, while being cross examined by Slater’s lawyer Brian Henry, Craig said there had been “deliberate selection” of MacGregor’s texts, because his lawyers had requested them.

Asked if his texts could be found, Craig said that wasn’t possible because he hadn’t kept his old phone.

On Wednesday, MacGregor continually refused to accept Craig’s evidence.

“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.

Chappell was jailed for three years and nine months; his sentence was altered to home detention after a year. His offending included preparing a false summary of facts for the courts.

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.”

Craig said during his cross examination earlier in the trial that after his Nokia cellphone was disposed of, he got a tablet and kept using it while MacGregor worked for him.

To obtain further texts which have also been entered as evidence, in 2015 he sent the tablet to Chappell, who acted as a “forensics expert”.

After the tablet was sent back to him, it was accidentally destroyed.

“It fell off the roof of my car and got run over,” Craig told Henry.

But the evidence obtained by Chappell was also missing texts. Craig admitted they were not “all-inclusive” and were only what could be recovered.

No court today.

Friday morning this case will resume with Rachel MacGregor on the stand, and Colin Craig representing himself continuing his cross examination.

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