Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Colin Craig trial: Former press secretary granted restraining order against counsellor

Colin Craig leaves Auckland High Court. Photo / Nick Reed
Colin Craig leaves Auckland High Court. Photo / Nick Reed

Details have emerged in court about a restraining order granted to Colin Craig's former press secretary against a counsellor she alleges posted confidential information about her in a blog post.

The Herald can reveal that Rachel MacGregor was granted a restraining order in the Waitakere District Court against Steve Taylor in May this year.

The order and the reasons for it were discussed in open court today, during day 12 of Craig's High Court defamation trial.

Craig is accused of defaming Taxpayers' Union director Jordan Williams - also a friend of MacGregor's - in the Dirty Politics pamphlet he paid to publish and distribute to 1.6 million households across New Zealand.

Taylor is an associate of Craig and a former Conservative Party candidate.

He was the moderator for his allegedly defamatory pamphlet "Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas".

He is also a counsellor and the director of 24-7 Limited which, according to the company's website, offers counselling and mediation to individuals, couples and families.

Sometime after MacGregor quit and following the speculation that followed about her shock departure a blog post appeared on the internet containing extremely personal information about her, including information she alleges she disclosed to Taylor.

Rachel MacGregor. Brett Phibbs
Rachel MacGregor. Brett Phibbs

The author of the post has never been firmly identified but MacGregor, when applying to the courts for the restraining order, alleged it was Taylor.

Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight asked Craig about Taylor and the blog, which has been removed from the internet. Craig indicated that he knew about it and Taylor's alleged connection to it.

Craig claimed MacGregor and Taylor were "close friends" but had a "falling out", which he believed was about money.

Colin Craig gives evidence in his defamation trial brought by Jordan Williams at the Auckland High Court.
Colin Craig gives evidence in his defamation trial brought by Jordan Williams at the Auckland High Court.

Craig said he knew about the restraining order but did not know the details.

"I am aware it was quite an acrimonious falling out. I am aware there is some type of order," he told the jury.

McKnight asked Craig if Taylor had posted the blog and if he had disclosed information MacGregor had divulged during a counselling session.

"I think that is what she says, I'm not sure if that is what he says. He is a counsellor," Craig said.

"They were close friends."

Craig said he had seen the blog post and it contained "quite a bit of factual information" but "it was a terrible thing to do".

He said there was a lot of personal information about MacGregor that he could have made public himself but had always chosen not to, including in court.

"This sort of stuff could be hugely damaging and I didn't think it was appropriate to talk about this sort of thing," Craig explained.

McKnight asked Craig who had written the post and if he thought it was Taylor.

"I asked him whether he did it or not and he didn't give me a particularly straight answer, which is why I say it was possibly him," Craig responded.

He explained why he asked Taylor to moderate the pamphlet, knowing about the "acrimonious" history with his former press secretary.

"I didn't know who wrote this blog at the time he moderated the document. He was a friend of Rachel and they were on good terms so I felt that added veracity, that he could remove something that could be critical to her or unfair," Craig explained.

Under a standard restraining order Taylor would be ordered not to:

• watch or loiter near MacGregor's home, place of employment or any other place she frequents

• follow, stop or accost MacGregor

• make contact with her by phone, correspondence or any other way

• or act in any way that would cause MacGregor to fear for her safety

• Taylor was also ordered to "take down the website rachelmacgregorblog.wordpress.com with immediate effect"

Anyone who breaches a restraining order could be charged and could face up to six months in prison and or a $5000 fine.

Taylor was in court to support Craig for the first two days of his defamation trial, but was not able to attend proceedings when MacGregor was giving evidence.

Why is Colin Craig on trial?

The defamation trial unfolded after Craig's press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, resigned suddenly just 48 hours before the 2014 general election.

The resignation was high profile and there was much speculation about why she left.

Weeks later MacGregor turned to Williams for support, and told him she had made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission that Craig had sexually harassed her.

She shared letters and poems the politician sent her. Williams then revealed the details to other Conservative Party members.

When Craig found out he publicly claimed Williams was part of a group of "culprits" determined to have him removed as party leader through a "campaign" of "false accusations".

Williams then filed defamation proceedings in the High Court, saying he did not lie about Craig.

After Craig finished reading his brief of evidence to the jury last week, McKnight started the cross-examination.

The trial continues.

Addendum

Steve Taylor has denied that he was MacGregor's counsellor.

- NZ Herald

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