Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is following through on his plans to slap Green Party leader Russel Norman with a defamation suit for comments he made at Big Gay Out and, now, statements made on TVNZ.
"Unfortunately Mr Norman has not seen fit to apologise for his comments against me at the Big Gay Out. His comments were provably untrue, and in my view defamatory," Mr Craig says in a just released statement.
Mr Craig set a deadline of 5 pm today. At 4:30 Dr Norman tweeted "I believe in a tolerant inclusive society w free speech. I will cont [sic] be intolerant of intolerance. No apology Craig."
Dr Norman did not return a call from NBR ONLINE seeking comment. Mr Craig only issued a statement.
Mr Craig says he today asked his lawyers to draft a statement of claim, and provide estimates on costs and timeframes for legal proceedings.
Breakfast TV comments could spark additional action
"I expect to have detailed responses on all the above from my legal team late next week," Mr Craig says.
He’s also asked them to review comments Dr Norman made on the TVNZ Breakfast programme this week.
“Preliminary legal advice is that part of those comments may also be defamatory. Once this assessment is made they may be added to the claim," Mr Craig says.
According to the February 17 letter from his lawyers at Chapman Tripp, Mr Craig would likely sue Dr Norman under section 24 of the Defamation Act 1992, which relates to declarations.
I believe in a tolerant inclusive society w free speech. I will cont be intolerant of intolerance. No apology Craig pic.twitter.com/G9jRGDClBd
— Russel Norman (@RusselNorman) February 21, 2014
Section 24 only calls for a declaration plus legal costs. A plaintiff can’t sue for damages under this section.
Stacey Shortall, a partner with Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, says Section 24 doesn’t make it easier to win a defamation claim. Plaintiffs still have to file the statement of claims and affidavits, defendants still have to respond and the hearing commences.
“It is an avenue in the act by people who may wish to vindicate themselves when they have taken a position they have been defamed,” Ms Shortall says.
Dr Norman's lawyer Steven Price told NBR ONLINE he was unable to comment.