Principal accused of domestic violence awarded $145k

Peter Clague, former Principal of Kristin School on Auckland's North Shore. Photo / File
Peter Clague, former Principal of Kristin School on Auckland's North Shore. Photo / File

A top principal who was accused of domestic violence has been awarded $145,000 in court costs after battling for three years to clear his name.

Peter Lawrence Clague denied a charge of male assaults female after a private prosecution was brought by his former partner Jeanne Denham.

And Judge David McNaughton sided with him - throwing out the charge after hearing the evidence.

He since awarded Clague $145,811 in costs, Fairfax reported, labelling the allegations as "maliciously exaggerated".

The former Kristin School principal moved to the UK in 2014 after landing the job of headmaster at the prestigious 500-year-old Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire.

But the gloss was taken off his big career move as the domestic violence allegations loomed.

Clague had to fly home midway through last year to stand trial in Auckland District Court but Judge McNaughton dismissed the charge, ruling there was not enough evidence for the jury to reasonably find him guilty.

Allegations of abuse arose in 2012, not long after the pair had broken up, but after investigating, the police chose not to charge Clague.

Denham hired PR consultant Carrick Graham to put out press releases about the case, which Mr Lloyd said was part of an orchestrated campaign to destroy his client.

Eventually she brought her former partner before the court in the form of a private prosecution.

The alleged incident took place in 2010 at the newlywed couple's Greenhithe home.
In her opening address, prosecutor Marie Dyhrberg QC said that during an argument Clague "grabbed [Denham] by the shoulders, shook her and said, 'shut the f*** up"'.

"It caused her to fall to the ground and she landed on her lower back causing an injury to her tailbone for which she sought medical attention," she said.

But Clague's lawyer Michael Lloyd disputed that version of events and said the only reason his client had touched the complainant was to calm her, he submitted.

"His defence has always been that it was in the context of Ms Denham absolutely going off her rocker, being loud, hurling expletives of abuse within earshot of the neighbours and the child," he said.

Mr Lloyd said Clague's actions had been done "in a pleading way" and a slip on the polished floor had caused him to overbalance and push Ms Denham backwards on to the step.

"Whether there was any evidence to support the informant's allegations, in the end I have decided [that] carries very little weight," Judge McNaughton said in his judgement, according to Fairfax.

"The informant's claims were grossly and maliciously exaggerated in order to destroy the defendant's reputation, to inflict damage on the Kristin School and to obtain the advantage in the informant's relationship property claim.

"It is difficult to imagine a worse case of bad faith. I agree with Mr Lloyd that the various media campaigns including the UK campaign are an extraordinary aggravating feature of the case which take it well beyond the conduct described in any of the other reported cases involving the award of full indemnity costs on the basis of bad faith."

- NZ Herald

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