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Judgment: Craig v MacGregor

REDACTED VERSION OF JUDGMENT SUITABLE FOR PUBLICATION
IN THE HIGH COURT OF NEW ZEALAND
AUCKLAND REGISTRY
I TE KŌTI MATUA O AOTEAROA
TĀMAKI MAKAURAU ROHE

CIV-2016-404-002915
[2019] NZHC 2247

BETWEEN COLIN GRAEME CRAIG
Plaintiff
AND RACHEL MARGARET JOY MACGREGOR
Defendant


[…]

Summary

Mr Craig’s claims

[265] In terms of Mr Craig’s first cause of action, relating to Ms MacGregor’s statements to Mr Williams on 19 November 2014, I find Ms MacGregor did not defame Mr Craig by suggesting he sexually harassed her, because this was true. I find Ms MacGregor did defame him by suggesting he was a bad employer who took advantage of her, he was cruel, nasty or unfair toward [a young woman], he has harassed, abused or been nasty toward two or more women, and he caused a young woman to commit suicide. This cause of action succeeds in part.

[266] On Mr Craig’s second cause of action, I find Ms MacGregor did not defame Mr Craig by stating Mr Craig’s press conference contained clear factual inaccuracies, because it did. She makes out the defence of truth, so I dismiss this cause of action.

[267] Mr Craig’s third cause of action is that Ms MacGregor defamed him on Twitter by suggesting (a) he was the sort of person who would publicly frame a person as a mistress, (b) he had sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, (c) that he had committed one or more sexual assaults, and (d) that he had lied about their relationship when he said that he and Ms MacGregor had agreed that in hindsight some of their conduct was inappropriate. I find that the publication is not capable of bearing the meaning alleged at (c), that (b) is true, and that the defence of qualified privilege applies to (a), (b) and (d). I dismiss this cause of action.

Ms MacGregor’s claims

[268] On Ms MacGregor’s first cause of action, I find Mr Craig did defame her by suggesting she had made false claims of sexual harassment against Mr Craig, and that she was a liar. He did not defame her by suggesting she had acted inappropriately with him, that she had no capability to manage her finances, and that she could not pay her debts. I find on the balance of probabilities that these imputations are at least substantially true. This cause of action succeeds in part.

[269] On Ms MacGregor’s second cause of action, arising from the Craigs’ joint letter to the Conservative Party, I find Mr Craig defamed Ms MacGregor by suggesting she had made false claims of sexual harassment against Mr Craig, that she had withdrawn the false claims of sexual harassment against Mr Craig, that she had an inappropriate relationship with Mr Craig as a married man, and that she was a liar. I also find, however, that Mr Craig’s defence of truth succeeded on the imputation that she had previously acknowledged she had behaved inappropriately with Mr Craig. This cause of action succeeds in part.

[270] On Ms MacGregor’s third cause of action, which arose from the Craigs’ joint press conference of 29 July 2015, I find that Mr Craig defamed Ms MacGregor by suggesting she made false claims of sexual harassment against her, that she was a liar, that she had victimised the Craigs, and that she was the kind of person who would victimise and hurt a family. This cause of action succeeds.

[271] On Ms MacGregor’s fourth cause of action, which arose from Mr Craig’s “Dirty Politics” booklet, I find the imputations that Ms MacGregor had made false claims of sexual harassment against Mr Craig, had withdrawn false claims of sexual harassment against Mr Craig, falsely played “the victim”, and was a liar were defamatory, and Mr Craig had not made out any defence. This cause of action succeeds.

Orders

[272] Mr Craig seeks declarations under s 24 of the Defamation Act 1992 that Ms MacGregor is liable in defamation where he has succeeded. He has succeeded partially on his first cause of action only. Making of declarations is not automatic, but I see no reason why it should not follow here. I make the following declaration: (a) In terms of Mr Craig’s first cause of action, Ms MacGregor is liable in defamation for her statements suggesting: (i) He was a bad employer who took unfair advantage of Ms MacGregor by failing and refusing to negotiate and agree pay rates, and failing to pay invoices when due.

(ii) He was cruel, nasty or unfair toward [a young woman].

(iii) He has harassed, abused or been nasty towards two or more women.

(iv) He caused a young woman to commit suicide.

[273] In terms of s 24(2), I reserve the issue of costs for further consideration.

[274] Ms MacGregor does not seek declarations.

Damages and costs

[275] I note that Mr Craig makes no claim for damages.

[276] I have very limited submissions, from Ms MacGregor’s counsel in particular, on her damages claim.

[277] I would also be assisted by submissions on costs in light of my findings that each party is liable to the other in defamation.

[278] The parties should file a joint memorandum setting out an agreed timetable.

[Full judgment: 2019NZHC2247.pdf]

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