Colin Craig doesn't regret his actions, hints at appeal after $1.3m defamation defeat

By Amelia Wade

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig says he doesn't regret his actions - and he is grateful for his "amazing wife" who has stood by him.

Craig said Helen had stood by him throughout the defamation case, and he said she was fully informed about the information that came out pertaining to his relationship with Rachel MacGregor, his former press secretary.

"I am so grateful for the wife I have," he said.

"For the entire court she has been with me, except when she hasn't been allowed in the court room, which she wasn't until she gave evidence.

"I just have nothing but the greatest things that I can say about my wife Helen. She's amazing and she's with me through the whole thing.

"She has stood by me. She's amazing and I'm lucky."

Talking to Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch, Craig said after today's outcome, his first step would be to make submissions to the court, but he would also have to "deal with things at a personal level."

Despite the decision he told Lynch he did not regret putting out the pamphlets.

He said he had taken legal advice before putting them out, and thought it was his right to respond.

Craig has hinted at an appeal after being ordered to pay Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams almost $1.3 million in damages for defaming him.

Eleven jurors sitting in the High Court at Auckland ruled unanimously in favour of Williams on both of the counts of defamation he laid against Craig.

They delivered their verdict about 2.50pm after 10 hours of deliberations across two days.

After the ruling, Craig and his legal team sat in a private room for about half an hour before leaving the court.

Craig then walked outside holding hands with his wife Helen.

He stopped to speak with media briefly. Mrs Craig, standing next to her husband, said she had nothing to say on the ruling.

Craig said he was "obviously rather surprised and disappointed with where we've reached today. I won't say anything further though, because obviously there's still legal steps in play.

"So I'll restrict my comment to 'very, very surprised and disappointed' and we'll just say more as this unfolds.''

Asked whether he would seek an appeal of the decision, Craig did not answer directly.

"As I understand it, the next issue is simply to put it back to the judge for further consideration. But that's with the legal team...

"Beyond that, we'll see what happens after that.''

The first count related to Craig's remarks during a press conference and the second to comments in a leaflet he sent to 1.6 million households.

Craig was ordered to pay almost $1.3 million in damages.

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On count one, the jury ordered $400,000 be paid in compensation caused for the injury to Williams' reputation and feelings and $90,000 in punitive damages for Craig's "flagrant disregard" of his rights.

On count two, they ruled Craig pay $650,000 in compensation and $130,000 in punitive damages.

As the verdict was read, Craig and his wife Helen sat quietly while Williams, supported by his mother and other family members, looked shocked and pleased.

Outside court Williams thanked his family and supporters.

"Thank you to all of those - my friends, my family and my colleagues and the donors of the organisations I work for - for standing by me during these last 12 months.''

Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight called his client "a lovely guy'' with a bright future.

"He's a lovely guy. He came to see me about the situation - I totally believed him from the start. I totally believe him now, as did the jury. It's a great day.''

Lawyer Ali Romanos - also part of Williams' legal team - said the case was the highlight of his career.

"It's been a gruelling year up against a very high-profile law firm and a very high-profile defendant ... we'd like to think justice was served today.''

Asked for his reaction when the verdict was read out, Romanos replied: "Relief. Relief for Jordan. He's had a lot of criticism through the media as to how he treated Rachel.

"But I think, actually, he did what he thought was right at the time - and I think that the jury saw that.''

McKnight said the "best" reaction inside court was from Williams' mother.

"She was just so relieved, so delighted and to see his family, it's absolutely great.

Williams also issued a statement in which he said: "These proceedings were never something I wanted. However, Mr Craig's false accusations and public threats to sue me could not go unanswered.

"Of course I am pleased that a jury, having heard all of the evidence, and not just what the media have reported, have made such a finding."

Jordan Williams talks to media outside the High Court. Photo / Nick Reed
Jordan Williams talks to media outside the High Court. Photo / Nick Reed

Williams took exception to comments made by Craig at a press conference in 2015, and in a pamphlet he published called Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas which was delivered to more than 1.6 million New Zealand households.

Craig claimed Williams had lied about him and was part of a smear campaign to push him out of the Conservative Party leadership.

The "false accusations" he alleged Williams spread were mainly around Craig's relationship with his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor, who quit suddenly two days before the 2014 general election.

A few weeks later MacGregor told Williams that she had made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission that Craig had sexually harassed her over a long period of her employment.

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

Craig then named Williams in a group of "schemers" he said were responsible for a "plot" against him.

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

The booklet also contained allegations about Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

Outside court Slater told media: "All Jordan did was speak the truth about [Craig's] ratbag behaviour. So we've had a just decision here.''

Slater said the decision had put an end to what he dubbed Craig's "bullying".

Speaking about the information about himself in the Dirty Politics booklet, Slater said: "Everything Colin Craig put in that booklet about me is false in every respect.''

- NZ Herald

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