Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Jordan Williams didn't defame Colin Craig but exposed him, argues lawyer

Jordan Williams' lawyer says the defamation trial against Colin Craig (right) is  not about the politician's former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor (left), but "about Mr Williams and Mr Craig". Photos / File
Jordan Williams' lawyer says the defamation trial against Colin Craig (right) is not about the politician's former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor (left), but "about Mr Williams and Mr Craig". Photos / File

When Jordan Williams leaked Colin Craig's sexual harassment of his former press secretary, he didn't defame him but exposed him, his lawyer says.

But his adversary says Williams wanted the leader gone and set about ousting him by spreading lies and stories he knew not to be true.

After more than three weeks of evidence, the jury heard from the lawyers in the defamation trial against Craig for the last time during their closing arguments as the proceedings at the Auckland High Court draw to a close.

For the last two days, the lawyers battled over technicalities and legalities while the jury stayed at home.

But today arguments resumed and Williams' lawyer, Stephen Mills QC, kicked off the closing statements by echoing his opening remarks that the case was not about the politician's former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

"It's about Mr Williams and Mr Craig."

After MacGregor's shock resignation, she allegedly told Williams that Craig, the former leader of the Conservative Party, had sexually harassed her through texts, cards and letters.

It included "and the now infamous" poem with the line: "you are beautiful because you have the most perfect dot dot dot".

Against MacGregor's wishes and breaking her confidence, Mills said Williams passed the information on to members of the Conservative Party board and right-wing blog Whale Oil.

Williams, the Taxpayers Union executive director, avoided seeking the truth so he could continue to spread the stories in his mission to oust Craig.

"From the very outset ... he formed the absolutely fixed and unshakable view that Mr Craig had to go."

Mills said Craig distributed the Dirty Politics pamphlet to 1.6 million households across New Zealand and held the press conference, because after the attacks he needed to defend his reputation.

He was standing up for what he thought was the right way to conduct politics in New Zealand his reputation had taken a hit from the "incredibly damaging" allegations, Mills said.

"If you are a politician and you are made a laughing stock, it's not survivable is it?"

But Craig didn't go away quietly.

"He fought back, which is how we got here."

Mills told the jury it was up to them to decide whether Williams had "acted with honesty and integrity" while acting on the information MacGregor gave to him in confidence, and whether Craig believed the information he distributed was the truth and his honest opinion at the time.

"Whether they were ultimately right or wrong is not the test."

And if the jury decided that the answer is "Yes, you think yes they're true - he [Williams] isn't trustworthy for example, then that's a defence."

The jury heard from Williams' lawyer, Peter McKnight, second.

He said if they found Craig had sent pamphlet because of feelings of ill-will towards Williams, they couldn't use defence of qualified privilege - the right to defend against an attack.

And once that was ruled out, just two defences remained - truth and honest opinion.

The love letters and poems were proof Williams didn't lie about Craig sexually harassing MacGregor, who suddenly resigned from her role as his press secretary two days before the 2014 election.

Time and time again the jury had heard from Craig his relationship with MacGregor was "a brother, sister relationship", McKnight told the jury.

"You should reject that - the letters speak for themselves."

When he broke MacGregor's confidence and told others about the harassment, Williams decided "enough was enough" and that it was time the "explosive information" came to light.

And In the end, rightly or wrongly he decided to act, McKnight said.

Jordan Williams Taxpayers Union picture supplied via facebook https://www.facebook.com/jwilliamsnz NZH 10Sep16 - RGP 13Sep16 - BTG 13Sep16 - NAG 13Sep16 -
Jordan Williams Taxpayers Union picture supplied via facebook https://www.facebook.com/jwilliamsnz NZH 10Sep16 - RGP 13Sep16 - BTG 13Sep16 - NAG 13Sep16 -

In his final statement to the jury, the lawyer told them to award Williams the full $1.34 million he sought in damages from Craig.

"There really must be a stop to this person. He must be stopped from ruining so many lives. I suggest to you that there can be absolutely no doubt that Colin Craig was the author of his own misfortune and it does him little credit that he now somehow blames Jordan Williams for this," McKnight told the jury.

"Something needs to be done about this man and I leave that in your capable hands."

Justice Sarah Katz will tomorrow give her summary to the jury and take them through the technical legalities of defamation before sending them to make their verdict.

- NZ Herald

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