Zero damages in Craig vs Slater

After over a year and a half of waiting the judgment is out in the Craig vs Slater defamation case and Colin Craig failed to get even one cent in damages.

It is basically a technical draw. Craig failed in all but a couple of his 15 claims and got zero damages for the others. In the counter-claim the court found Craig has said false things about Cameron Slater but got no damages also as he was responding to an attack which gave him qualified privilege.

Colin Craig initiated this action, and may be regretting it somewhat now. There are some damning findings in the judgement. Some extracts:

  • Mr Craig was guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment of Ms MacGregor, on multiple occasions from early 2012 to 2014 by telling her that he remained romantically inclined and sexually attracted to her, and that those expressions of his views were
    not welcomed by Ms MacGregor at the time they were communicated to her.
  • I have also held that the reputational damage which Mr Craig suffered throughout the events traversed at length in this judgment resulted almost entirely from his own actions. To the extent, if any, that his reputation suffered further damage because of the two defamatory statements for which I have held the defendants to be liable, I am more than satisfied that the declarations that he was defamed in that way provide adequate vindication. I conclude, therefore, that Mr Craig is not entitled to an award of general damages to compensate him further for such damage.
  • I have held that I do not accept that Mr Slater spread lies about Mr Craig; or made up allegations about him; or gathered information that he knew was fake or untrue; or published material on Whaleoil knowing it not to be true.
  • I have held, therefore, that Mr Craig’s defence of truth to Mr Slater’s counterclaim fails
  • I find that the untrue statements in the Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas booklet were made on an occasion of qualified privilege in reply to an attack on him by Mr Slater and that the privilege was not lost. On that basis, Mr Slater’s counterclaim in defamation is dismissed.
  • As Mr Henry exposed in his cross-examination, however, Mr Craig’s attempt to promote the one-page “Things I am Doing” document as a precursor to the 7 February 2012 letter was patently false.
  • I observed Mr Craig’s demeanour closely while he was being questioned about
    these matters, and noted his evasiveness and prevarication until it became untenable for him to maintain his earlier positions.
  • I am satisfied that Mr Craig intended to mislead the board into believing that Ms MacGregor’s allegations of sexual harassment were a product of her infatuation with him and without foundation.
  • But because I have held the allegations about that behaviour to be true, the reputational damage suffered by Mr Craig leading to his political demise resulted not from any untrue statement by Mr Slater about those matters but from the fact that Mr Craig acted as he did.
  • It scarcely needs to be said, therefore, that the reputational damage which
    Mr Craig suffered throughout the events traversed at length in this judgment resulted almost entirely from his own actions.
  • To the extent, if any, that his reputation suffered further damage as a result of the two statements for which I have held the defendants to be liable, I am more than satisfied that the declarations that he was defamed in that way provide adequate vindication.

 

Also of interest is the approach Justice Toogood took to sexual harassment:

Where a sexual harassment complaint involves an allegation of intentional sexual conduct or language and there is a power imbalance favouring the perpetrator over the complainant, it is reasonable to draw a rebuttable inference that the sexual conduct or language was unwelcome, whether the complainant objected at the time of the alleged harassment or not.

So basically when there is a power imbalance the starting position is to assume the sexual conduct or language is unwelcome. That seems very reasonable. If there is not a power imbalance, then you don’t necessarily start with that presumption.

The Judge found that at the very beginning the relationship wasn’t sexual harassment more a mutual infatuation, but from 2012 onwards it was harassment. Some of the details are rather, well, ….

Mr Craig said that he fell asleep on Ms MacGregor’s lap on at least three
occasions, on two of which Ms MacGregor sang Christian worship songs to help him get to sleep.

Onward Christian soldiers marching as to !

Anyway the next step will be to see if Craig or Slater appeals, and also if either party is liable for the costs of the other.

The fact the Judge has ruled that MacGregor was sexually harassed by Craig could prove important for the other case where he is suing her for defamation.

While a technical draw the fact the Judge found that Craig falsified evidence, lied in court, did sexually harass MacGregor and is responsible himself for the damage to his reputation is quite damning. And Slater is found to have got a couple of things wrong but did not lie or say things he knew to be false.  So I’d say he’s very happy with the judgement.

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