Ex-politician Colin Craig and his secretary both defamed each other, the High Court has ruled.
Rachel MacGregor and then-Conservative Party leader Craig fell out ahead of the 2014 election, and have been in and out of court since.
In a judgement released on Thursday morning, the court said MacGregor was "liable in defamation for her statements suggesting":
- "[Craig] was a bad employer who took unfair advantage of MacGregor by failing and refusing to negotiate and agree pay rates, and failing to pay invoices when due"
- "he was cruel, nasty or unfair toward [a young woman]"
- "he has harassed, abused or been nasty towards two or more women"
- "he caused a young woman to commit suicide."
But the court also found Craig defamed MacGregor in claiming:
- she'd made "false claims of sexual harassment" against him
- that she was "a liar".
- "that she had victimised the Craigs, and that she was the kind of person who would victimise and hurt a family".
But he did not defame her by suggesting she had acted inappropriately with him, couldn't manage her finances or pay her debts, the court said, finding "on the balance of probabilities that these imputations are at least substantially true".
The court said MacGregor's claim Craig sexually harassed her "was true", and she didn't defame him when she claimed a press conference he held "contained clear factual inaccuracies, because it did".
The court dismissed Craig's claim MacGregor had defamed him by saying on Twitter he was trying to "frame me as a mistress".
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Craig said in a statement he was "pleased that the judgment does set the record straight on those matters".
"These were very serious and damaging claims, which have all been shown to be false," he said, referring to the claims he was successful on.
"I will continue to attempt to get the record straightened on all claims made against me, because the public deserve to know the truth."
Craig dropped his monetary claim against MacGregor early in the proceedings.
"I have not sought any damages from MacGregor. This was simply about getting to the truth."
MacGregor also welcomed the judgement.
"This decision is the third to find that Craig sexually harassed me. It's a relief to have the courts confirm that when I filed my complaint I did so truthfully."
Craig told Newshub he is considering appealing the ruling."
Even though the court acknowledges the vast majority of claims she made aren't true, it's still not there on the matter of sexual harassment. I find it difficult to get my head around that... I remain puzzled on that."
MacGregor hopes he doesn't appeal, because she wants "this awful ordeal to be finally over".
"I've found that filing a sexual harassment complaint is a very difficult thing to do. At the very least, I hope that New Zealand can eventually progress to being a place where any victim can know that if they do raise an alarm, good systems are in place so that they can be listened to in confidence, and that they won't be re-traumatised by the experience.
"What started as a traumatic experience in itself, with sexual harassment, has been very much magnified by the years of legal actions. It's turned into a new form of harassment that has lasted longer and been more painful than I could have ever imagined."
She thanked everyone who'd contributed to a trust set up to pay for her legal battle. A decision on costs and damages will be made after both parties provide written submissions.
"It's my strong wish that... he finally leaves me alone to get on with my life," said MacGregor.
The ruling included some of Craig's poetry for MacGregor, one of which was deemed "quite explicit in its sexual interest". A message MacGregor wrote in a card for Craig on the other hand was said to be "effusive and very affectionate" but "does not contain any inappropriate sexual content or even innuendo".
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Craig had been previously ordered to pay MacGregor a six-figure sum after breaching a confidentiality agreement the pair previously signed.
Newshub is seeking further comment from both Craig and MacGregor.