Mallard and Little may apologise in Collins' defamation case

Trevor Mallard
Andrew Little
Judith Collins

Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little may be about to say sorry and back off from defamation proceedings brought by ACC Minister Judith Collins.

Lawyers for the parties meet behind closed doors at Auckland High Court this morning for a judicial settlement conference before Justice Ed Wylie, ahead of a proposed February trial.

Negotiations will take place in chambers, away from the public.

Miss Collins wants the High Court to declare she was defamed by the Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little in comments relating to the leaking of an email central to this year’s controversy around ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar.

Miss Collins also wants the court to order the MPs to pay her legal costs.

The judge-alone trial is set down for February and is expected to take three to five days

Miss Collins launched the defamation action in March, accusing the two MPs of defaming her in comments about the leaked email, written by former National Party president and Ms Pullar's confidante Michelle Boag, which led to Ms Pullar's identity being revealed in the media.

Miss Collins has denied she, or her office, was responsible for the leak.

But Messrs Mallard and Little continued debate about Miss Collins' alleged involvement in the privacy breach within her ministry on Radio NZ in March, when Ms Collins alleges defamatory comments about her were made.

She filed defamation proceedings against the two MPs when they refused to apologise.

Miss Collins does not seek damages but wants a judicial declaration Messrs Mallard and Little defamed her.

She is paying for the legal action herself and represented by leading defamation Queen's counsel Julian Miles.

Messrs Mallard and Little are represented by John Tizard.

Judge refused Mallard and Little’s bid to stay the defamation action

Messrs Mallard and Little were refused their earlier bid to stay the defamation action.

The MPs wanted proceedings brought by Miss Collins stayed until the outcome of a privacy commissioner's inquiry into the leaked email sent by Michelle Boag to Miss Collins was known.

Release of the commissioner's report into the ACC privacy breach was extended to the end of August.

Justice Geoff Venning refused their application for a stay in July, saying any findings of the privacy commissioner would not be binding in court and would not necessarily be determinative of the issues raised by Miss Collins.

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