Jordan Williams and Colin Craig defamation case begins

Jury chosen and opening arguments to start tomorrow.

Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams’ defamation case against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has begun in the High Court at Auckland.

The case involves various claims made by Mr Craig and alleges "a campaign of defamatory lies” against Mr Williams and others, which were made at a media conference in July last year and in a leaflet distributed to more than 1.6 million letterboxes.

The remarks and leaflet addressed, in part, allegations involving alleged sexual harassment by Mr Craig of his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor and that he paid her to keep her quiet.

The leaflet, titled Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas, contained claims of what Mr Craig saw as the "strategy" to remove him as leader of the Conservative Party.

The jury trial, which is being heard before Justice Sarah Katz, could take up to take five weeks.

A jury has been selected and opening arguments by Mr Williams’ lawyers, Peter McKnight and Ali Romanos, will be heard tomorrow.

Mr Craig is being represented by Stephen Mills QC, Justin Graham and John McKay.

Witnesses for Mr Williams include himself, Ms MacGregor, former Conservative candidate Christine Rankin, former Conservative chairman John Stringer, lawyer Stephen Franks, PR men Carrick Graham and Matthew Hooton, among others. Mr Craig’s witnesses include his wife, journalist Nicky Hager, lobbyist Garth McVicar, former Conservative chairman Brian Dobbs, among others.

The case involves six pages of "notes or jottings" made by Ms MacGregor and which Justice Kit Toogood considered in a June decision. Specifically, he looked at the notes in terms of their status regarding a claim Ms MacGregor made under the Human Rights Act as "preparatory materials,"

The notes allegedly recorded incidents in which Mr Craig might have been said to have behaved in a manner amounting to sexual harassment. Justice Toogood directed the notes should be disclosed to the parties so they can properly prepare their claims and defences.

When the proceedings were first filed last year, Mr Williams sought general damages of $250,000 and punitive damages of $50,000 in relation to Mr Craig’s statements at the media conference. It also sought general damages of $500,000 and punitive damages of $100,000 in relation to the leaflet.

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