Colin Craig 'guilty of moderately serious sexual harassment' against Rachel MacGregor, judge rules

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig committed "moderately serious sexual harassment" against his press secretary Rachel MacGregor, according to a High Court judge.

The revelation came in the 250-page ruling on the defamation battle between Mr Craig and blogger Cameron Slater, released on Thursday morning.

Mr Craig claimed Mr Slater defamed him on his blog, Whale Oil. Mr Craig said Mr Slater's allegations, most of which relate to sexual misbehaviour and money issues, damaged his reputation.

After Mr Craig distributed a pamphlet  - Dirty Politics and Hidden Agendas - to more than 1.6 million homes around the country defending himself, Mr Slater counter-sued, saying the claims in the pamphlet defamed him, asking for more than $8 million - $5000 for each household that received the pamphlet.

Justice Toogood ruled two of Mr Slater's claims defamed Mr Craig, but awarded no damages. The claims where that Mr Craig placed Ms Rachel MacGregor under financial pressure to sleep with him and sexually harassed at least one victim other than Ms MacGregor - both of which he found were not true.

"The reputational damage which Mr Craig suffered throughout the events traversed at length in this judgment resulted almost entirely from his own actions," he said in the ruling.

"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."

None of Mr Slater's allegations against Mr Craig were upheld.

Mr Slater told Newshub it was a "technical draw".

"There are good findings that will vindicate Rachel MacGregor. The judge has been very detailed and forensic in his examinations in this case. Colin Craig called me a liar and said I made things up, and the judge has said I don't lie... Colin Craig has sought to exonerate himself, but his actions have proved he can't do that."

Cameron Slater.
Cameron Slater. Photo credit: Getty

In the ruling, Justice Toogood said he was "satisfied Mr Slater is neither a compulsive nor a calculated liar".

Much of the ruling covered Mr Craig's relationship with Ms MacGregor, and his continued expression of interest in having sexual relations.

Justice Toogood said while Mr Craig's approaches to Ms MacGregor in 2011 were accepted, from 2012 it was clear they were unwanted.  

"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.

"Ms MacGregor chose not to complain about the harassment because of her concern about the effect of a complaint on her employment."

Rachel MacGregor.
Rachel MacGregor. Photo credit: File

The Rachel MacGregor Trust, set up to help Ms MacGregor with her legal expenses, said it welcomed the ruling. Ms MacGregor was subpoenaed to give evidence during the trial.

"Mr Craig did not demonstrate, at any point in his evidence in this proceeding, any understanding of the difficulties created for an employee by an employer's expression of intense feelings of emotional engagement and sexual longing," the trust said in a statement.

"He never acknowledged the possibility that Ms MacGregor may have felt she could not protest about, and was obliged to tolerate, sexually charged language and conduct for fear of losing her employment or failing to meet her employer's expectations."

A decision on the legal battle between Ms MacGregor and Mr Craig isn't expected for months yet, the trust said.

"Ms MacGregor has expressed her deep gratitude to members of the public who have made a donation to the Trust to assist with the legal fees she is facing."

Newshub.

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