Colin Craig's defamation case gets underway

Colin Craig (Getty file)
Colin Craig (Getty file)

A defamation case against former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is underway in the Auckland High Court.

The case has been brought by Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams, who alleges Mr Craig made false allegations about him in a leaflet and during a press conference last year.

The leaflet, titled 'Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas', was distributed to more than 1.6 million letterboxes.

In his opening statement on Tuesday, Mr Williams' lawyer Peter McKnight told the jury the matter goes back to a situation involving Colin Craig's employment of his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor.

Ms MacGregor took a sexual harassment case against Mr Craig to the Human Rights Commission in 2014 and resigned in September of that year, just before the general election.

Ms MacGregor - who became friends with Mr Williams - told him about the sexual harassment claim, and about not being paid properly.

Mr Williams' lawyer says at the time, Ms MacGregor would not go into details, but had claimed Mr Craig was a manipulative man.

"He is a person that will use his power and wealth to manipulate and control others," said Mr McKnight.

What followed, he said, can only be described as a "media storm" leading up to the alleged defamation.

Mr Craig's leaflet, which was distributed in 2015, addressed the harassment allegations, as well as claims he had paid Ms MacGregor to keep quiet.

Also contained in that leaflet were the statements about Mr Williams, which Mr McKnight says amounted to "very serious defamation".

Mr McKnight asked the jury to question who started the storm, and to put themselves in Mr Williams' position.

"We only have one reputation. And once lost it is very, very difficult to recover and sometimes impossible," said Mr McKnight.

Seven men and five women are on the jury for the trial, which could last up to five weeks.