A retiring High Court judge has recalled the many days he watched Colin Craig in his courtroom and says the former Conservative Party leader is intelligent and articulate - but also a "self-absorbed" man who clung to the idea of a special relationship with his press secretary.
Justice Kit Toogood sat on the bench during the lengthy defamation trial between the self-represented Craig and blogger Cameron Slater during mid-2017.
Last October, the judge ruled that the Whale Oil blogger defamed the ex-politician but did not award damages.
He also found Craig sexually harassed his press secretary Rachel MacGregor "on multiple occasions from early 2012 to 2014".
Craig and Slater had counter-sued each other over allegations involving MacGregor and Craig's response in his booklet Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, which was distributed to 1.6 million Kiwi households.
Yesterday evening, Justice Toogood released the latest ruling - this time for legal costs - in the saga which he says "needs to be brought to an end".
The judge awarded Slater costs and provided the parties with a calculation to formulate the amount.
Justice Toogood, due to retire this year, also reflected in his judgment on the character of those involved in the case, most notably the 51-year-old Craig.
"I watched him give evidence in chief and under cross-examination over several days and I heard Ms MacGregor's evidence about his behaviour over the three years she worked with him. I had ample opportunity, therefore, to assess Mr Craig's personality," Justice Toogood said.
"He is plainly intelligent and articulate. There is no doubt, either, that he was highly ambitious politically and that he was single-minded in his approach to achieving his political aspirations."
Craig, a millionaire property developer, finished third in the Auckland mayoral election in 2010.
The following year he founded the Conservative Party after he and his wife Helen believed New Zealand's conservative citizens were being ignored.
The party, formed on traditional Christian values, performed relatively well in its first national election in late 2011 despite not gaining a seat in Parliament.
However, just two days before the 2014 election, MacGregor dramatically quit as press secretary and later filed a sexual harassment complaint against Craig.
It was also later revealed Craig had kissed MacGregor on election night in 2011 and touched her breasts.
"Although Mr Craig professed to be interested only in Ms MacGregor's wellbeing, he did not act accordingly. The heavy demands he placed on Ms MacGregor during the 2014 election campaign demonstrated that he lacked real empathy for her," Justice Toogood commented.
"I assessed Mr Craig as being a man who is extremely confident in his opinions, self-absorbed, lacking self-awareness and insight and, to a degree, hypocritical. Self-justification appears to come easily to him."
The judge said Craig's characteristics "may go some way to explaining why" he continued to mislead the Conservative Party board and the public about his feelings and the true nature of MacGregor's allegations during the scandal.
"I do not doubt that he knew that evidence of his apparent sexual and romantic interest in one of his employees would be professionally and politically damaging if it became known to his colleagues in the Conservative Party or reached the public domain."
Justice Toogood held in his October judgment that Craig also went so far as to "manufacture evidence designed to support his position" and to "mislead the court rather than to acknowledge to others that he had behaved badly".
The judge also commented on MacGregor and Craig's relationship, which played out as the ex-politician questioned the former TVNZ reporter for two days during the 2017 trial.
"I rejected Ms MacGregor's evidence that she felt scared and awful immediately after the incident and that it marked the point at which she lost faith and trust in Mr Craig," he said.
"The positive communications Mr Craig received from Ms MacGregor in November and December 2011 laid something of a foundation for his ongoing perception of their relationship; it endured even when she ceased responding in that way."
Justice Toogood said although it may be evident to an objective observer that MacGregor never entertained the notion of rekindling a romantic relationship with Craig it was "apparent to me that Mr Craig was so absorbed with his own views that he did not recognise this".
"Even when cross-examining Ms MacGregor on these matters, and receiving negative responses, [Craig] clung to the notion of a mutual attraction and emotional closeness – a special relationship – between himself and Ms MacGregor, thwarted by circumstances that required them to keep their relationship professional.
"The aspects of Mr Craig's personality I have described ... played a key role in maintaining his delusion."
The judge said while Craig's belief that he was innocent of sexually harassing MacGregor "may seem wholly unreasonable to many" it needs to be considered in the light of "MacGregor's failure to protest, as explicable as that may have been".
After Justice Toogood's October decision, Craig maintained he had not sexually harassed anyone.
He said of his poems and letters to MacGregor: "If someone tells you it's a great letter and they are re-reading and re-reading it, I think a normal person would consider the letter welcomed."
Last year, Craig and MacGregor met again in the courtroom as the pair counter-sued each other for defamation.
Craig, however, withdrew his claim for damages against his former employee after he became aware she could not pay him if he won the case.
A pair are currently awaiting the judgment by Justice Anne Hinton.
A confidential settlement between Craig and MacGregor had been reached in May 2015, but Craig was later ordered to pay MacGregor more than $120,000 by the Human Rights Review Tribunal after it ruled he breached the agreement in media interviews.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has ordered a retrial in the defamation case between Craig and New Zealand Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams.
After the four-week trial in 2016, a jury had found in Williams' favour and awarded him $1.27m, the highest amount for defamation damages in New Zealand's legal history.
Craig also has ongoing defamation proceedings with Conservative Party board member John Stringer.