3 Oct 2016

Craig ordered to pay nearly $129k to MacGregor

9:44 pm on 3 October 2016

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig was ordered to pay nearly $129,000 for breaching the confidentiality of a settlement with his former press secretary, a just-released decision shows.

Colin Craig, left, and Rachel MacGregor

Colin Craig and Rachel MacGregor Photo: Supplied

The Human Rights Review Tribunal's decision was issued in March but was subject to extensive suppression orders, which were lifted this afternoon.

Read the decision on the tribunal's website (PDF, 501KB)

The tribunal said Rachel MacGregor suffered significant humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings as a result of Mr Craig's breaches.

In May 2015, Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig attended mediation and reached the confidential settlement, which resolved issues around a pay dispute and a sexual harassment claim.

But Mr Craig breached that settlement on a number of occasions in media interviews and in the leaflet that was at the centre of his recent defamation trial, which he lost.

Ms MacGregor's lawyer, Linda Clark, said the amount awarded - $128,780 in damages plus costs - was the largest amount ever awarded by the tribunal for emotional harm.

She told Checkpoint with John Campbell the decision was strongly worded.

"It talks about the breaches being systemic, being deliberate, being calculated. It talks about the fact that [Mr Craig's statements] ... [were] designed to attract maximum publicity."

At all times, he had been in the "more powerful position", she said.

By June last year, about one month after Mr Craig had signed the confidentiality agreement, he had breached it in an interview with a television reporter in a sauna, and then continued to breach it in other media interviews and in the Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas pamphlet, she said.

"The point of the confidentiality was to avoid the very things that we have seen in recent weeks."

At the time Ms MacGregor signed the agreement she thought the whole thing was behind her and settled, Ms Clark said.

"As we all know, the very opposite has happened."

Her client was thrilled that the decision was out and hoped to move on with her life, she said.

'Strong mitigating circumstances' for breaching confidentiality agreement - Craig

Mr Craig said in a statement this afternoon that, last year, he felt his reputation had come under "unexpected and relentless public attack", and he felt he had "no real choice" but to respond.

"I accepted that I was in breach of my confidentiality obligations both publicly and when the breach was considered by the tribunal.

"However, I thought there were very strong mitigating circumstances."

He said he was disappointed the tribunal was so critical of him, given the "extreme and inexplicable circumstances".

Former Conservative Party chief executive Christine Rankin said it was "unforgivable" that Mr Craig had breached the confidentiality agreement with Ms MacGregor.

She told Checkpoint she had believed in Mr Craig and was devastated by what had happened.

"I just wish Colin would learn from this and give up and go away for a while and live a quiet life, but he just can't seem to do that.

"He will appeal everything, I know it for sure, and this will go on and on and on."

In the defamation case, which was separate to the case before the tribunal, Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams had accused Mr Craig of defaming him in comments he made at a news conference and in the leaflet, which was sent to 1.6 million households around the country.

On Friday, a jury in the High Court in Auckland found in Mr Williams' favour and awarded him $1.27 million in damages.

Mr Craig's lawyer has sought leave to set aside the verdict and the amount of damages awarded.