Amelia Wade is a court reporter for the New Zealand Herald

'Spy' spotted lurking outside Colin Craig trial - judge

Colin Craig giving evidence in his defamation trial. Photo / Supplied
Colin Craig giving evidence in his defamation trial. Photo / Supplied

A suspicious man wearing dark sunglasses and a black jacket spotted lurking around Jordan Williams' lawyers' chambers during the Colin Craig defamation trial worried his team that he was a spy.

It turned out to be a witness who was later subpoenaed but Williams' legal team tried to link the "so-called lurking incident" to Craig.

In judicial minutes released to media this week, Justice Sarah Katz detailed the drama which happened at the end of the first week of the trial heard at the Auckland High Court.

Justice Katz said on Monday, September 12 she received an email from Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight about an "incident of concern" the previous Friday evening.

When they were leaving the lawyer's chambers, they saw "a man with black square glasses [at dusk] and a black jacket, peering into the foyer, seemingly attempting to read the tenant information".

McKnight, co-counsel Ali Romanos and Williams said he seemed highly suspicious, and the man appeared "alarmed" to see them and quickly turned and walked away.

McKnight called out to the man, "Can I help you?" And he mumbled he was looking for something.

The next day, the former member of the Conservative Party board sent them pictures of a man who Craig was going to call as a witness but later decided against. It was then up to Williams to subpoena him.

Justice Katz said in her minute that McKnight's underlying concern was the man had been engaged by Craig "to spy on" Williams' legal team.

Craig's lawyer, Stephen Mills, QC, took strong exception to this and said his client was willing to sign a sworn affidavit confirming he hadn't spied on Williams' legal team.

The man signed a witness statement "confirming that he was not the lurker".

After more than three weeks of evidence and 10 hours of deliberations, the jury found in favour of Williams who brought a defamation suit against Craig.

The case arose from Williams' objection to comments by Craig at a press conference in 2015 and in a pamphlet delivered to 1.6 million households.

The jury ordered Craig pay $1.27 million to Williams for the injury to his feelings and reputation as well as punitive damages.

Mills is seeking leave to have the verdict and financial award set aside, telling Judge Katz that the jury got it wrong.

- NZ Herald

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