Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Craig to pursue defamation case, mulls further legal action

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / NZH, Listener
Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman. Photo / NZH, Listener

Conservatives' leader Colin Craig has begun preparing a defamation case against Greens' co-leader Russel Norman after the MP refused to apologise within a deadline set by Mr Craig this afternoon.

Mr Craig is also considering new legal action against Dr Norman for comments made on TVNZ Breakfast this week.

The politician and millionaire property manager had given Dr Norman a deadline of 5pm today to retract and apologise for comments he made in a speech at the Big Gay Out two weeks ago.

Dr Norman was standing by his description of Mr Craig as someone who "thinks a woman's place is in the kitchen and a gay man's place is in the closet''.

Mr Craig said this afternoon he had asked his lawyers at Chapman Tripp to draft a statement of claim and advise him on the likely costs and timeframe for a defamation case.

If a defamation case disrupted his election campaign plans or cost too much, he would reconsider it.

Mr Craig had also asked his lawyers to investigate whether comments made by Dr Norman on Breakfast on Wednesday could be considered defamatory.

His legal team were looking at two of Dr Norman's statements in particular - a claim that Mr Craig had "tried to build a society based on intolerance and hatred'' and comments made about the Conservative leader's religious beliefs.

"Their preliminary advice is that part of his comments are potentially defamatory as well,'' Mr Craig said.

"I may have a difference of opinion on what we define as marriage. But that is not vilifying people.''

Mr Craig was not seeking damages but wants a declaration from Dr Norman that his comments were false and offensive.

"This is really just about public reputation and establishing accuracy around what I think, and ultimately that reflects on the Conservative Party as well.''

Dr Norman's lawyer Steven Price has told Mr Craig's legal team that they should preserve all of his previous correspondence regarding women and gays including emails.

Mr Price said Dr Norman's comments were not meant to be taken literally and should be interpreted as a "colloquial suggestion'' that Mr Craig's attitudes towards women and gay people were outdated and disrespectful.

Legal experts have said that if the case went to court, Mr Craig was unlikely to win because there was a higher threshold for defaming a politician or aspiring politician.

A typical 3-day defamation case usually costs $75,000. The Green Party has not yet decided how it would fund its legal defence.

- NZ Herald

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