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18th of July 2018

Politics



Supreme Court allows Craig v Williams defamation appeal over compensation amount

New Zealand's highest court will allow challenges to a court's ruling that $1.27 million in compensation for a man defamed by former politician Colin Craig was "excessive or wrong".

New Zealand Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams sued Craig, the former Conservative Party leader, for defamation after Craig, in 2015, delivered 1.6 million pamphlets criticising Williams to homes across the country and held a press conference.

Williams sought compensatory damages of $400,000 and punitive damages of $90,000 for the remarks against him, and a further $650,000 in compensatory damages and $130,000 in punitive damages for the leaflets.

Jordan Williams talks to media after winning his defamation case against Colin Craig. Photo / Nick Reed Jordan Williams talks to media after winning his defamation case against Colin Craig. Photo / Nick Reed

Craig's pamphlets, at a personal cost of more than $250,000, were in response to Williams' allegation that Craig had sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

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MacGregor had resigned just two days before the General Election in 2014 and later that year confided in Williams that Craig had sent her unsolicited letters, cards with romantic poetry and compliments about her physical appearance.

After a nearly four-week trial in the High Court at Auckland during 2016, a jury awarded Williams the full amount of his claim.

It was the largest amount awarded in damages for defamation in New Zealand's legal history.

However, the Court of Appeal ruled this year that it was "satisfied that the jury's award of both compensatory and punitive damages was excessive or wrong, and must be set aside accordingly."

It suggested an appropriate amount would have been $250,000 for reparations and no more than $10,000 for punitive damages.

Today, the Supreme Court granted leave for Williams and Craig to appeal and cross-appeal the Court of Appeal's decision.

Former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor. Photo / Brett Phibbs Former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Craig is also waiting for a High Court decision by Justice Kit Toogood following a defamation trial last May between himself and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

The former politician sued Slater for defamation for the same sexual allegations involving MacGregor, while Slater counter-sued Craig for what he said in the pamphlet and at the press conference.

Craig and MacGregor, a former TVNZ journalist, were also counter-suing each other, both having filed defamation papers in the High Court.

He has also pursued defamation proceedings against former employee Jacqueline Stiekema and former Conservative Party board chairman John Stringer.

Colin Craig is also waiting on a High Court decision following a defamation trial between himself and Cameron Slater. Photo / Nick Reed Colin Craig is also waiting on a High Court decision following a defamation trial between himself and Cameron Slater. Photo / Nick Reed Read More




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