23 Sep 2016

Craig's lawyers came after Williams, court told

7:48 pm on 23 September 2016

The man who is suing the former leader of the Conservative Party has accused Colin Craig's lawyers of coming after him.

Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams was recalled to give evidence in the High Court in Auckland today, where he is suing Mr Craig for defamation over comments he made in a leaflet and at a news conference.

Much of the evidence has centred on Mr Craig's relationship with his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, who resigned suddenly just before the 2014 election.

Read about the Colin Craig defamation case in a nutshell here.

Colin Craig, left, and Rachel MacGregor

Colin Craig, left, and Rachel MacGregor Photo: Supplied

But today the spotlight was turned on Mr Williams.

Mr Williams began by reading an apology letter, referring to communication with Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.

He said much of the communication included legal advice and gossip, but there were also items that he was extremely embarrassed about.

"If there is one thing that I have really learned with all this ... just like with email, Facebook messages are an everlasting record. The mantra is: 'If you wouldn't want your mum reading it - don't write it' [and it] holds true. Sorry, Mum."

The nature of the conversation aired today cannot be reported for legal reasons.

In a tense exchange with Mr Craig's lawyer, Stephen Mills QC, Mr Williams accused the lawyer of coming after him and making accusations against him.

At one point, Mr Williams brought his fist down on to the witness box.

Mr Mills asked: "You are prepared to use people who are your friends for those wider political objectives."

Mr Williams responded: "You're saying I used Rachel for a political objective. I did not. I kept that confidence. Yes ... I supported her for eight months until that p*** broke the agreement and started piddling on her reputation.

"The relationship with Rachel was well after I had the information. I didn't want to go into the details. It made me feel awful."

He said he had stood by Ms MacGregor, paid for her initial lawyers and even got her a job in Wellington.

Mr Mills asked him if his political objective had been to have Mr Craig removed as leader.

Mr Williams responded: "Because he's flawed. And I didn't actually."

Earlier, the court heard from Beverly Adair-Beets, who also worked as a press secretary for Mr Craig, alongside Ms MacGregor.

She told the court that Ms MacGregor believed she had a "special status of power" over Mr Craig and was personally interested in him.

Ms Adair-Beets said she visited Ms MacGregor at home, two days before she resigned, and said Ms MacGregor seemed stressed.

"In our discussion, Rachel was very adamant with me that she wanted money from Colin. She told me very clearly that she would get paid what she deserved and would do anything to get it."

Under cross-examination, she confirmed she waited months before telling Mr Craig about the discussion and wrote what happened in an email.

The jury will not sit on Monday and is due to hear closing addresses from the lawyers on Tuesday.

Who's who?

  • Jordan Williams - The plaintiff in the case and executive director of the Taxpayers' Union. He has accused Colin Craig of defaming him in a leaflet that was sent to 1.6 million households around the country in July 2015.
  • Colin Craig - The defendant and former leader of the Conservative Party. He stepped down as leader in mid-2015 amid renewed speculation about his relationship with his former staffer, Rachel MacGregor.
  • Rachel MacGregor - The woman at the centre of the allegations and Mr Craig's former press secretary. She alleges she was sexually harassed by Mr Craig over a long period of time. She quit her job two days before the 2014 election over a pay dispute.
  • Peter McKnight - Mr Williams' lawyer.
  • Stephen Mills - Mr Craig's lawyer. A defamation expert.
  • Justice Katz - The High Court judge presiding over the trial.
  • John Stringer - Former Conservative Party board member. Gave evidence that there was no smear campaign against Mr Craig. Also said Mr Craig had told board members there was nothing going on with Ms MacGregor.
  • Christine Rankin - Former Conservative Party chief executive and candidate for Epsom in the 2014 election. Told the court she had thought Mr Craig was a moral man who could bring integrity into New Zealand politics.
  • Megan Williams - Mr Williams' mother. Gave tearful evidence defending her son's reputation.
  • Helen Craig - Mr Craig's wife. Gave evidence supporting her husband.
  • Brian Dobbs - former Conservative Party chair