HIGH COURT AWARD OF DAMAGES

Update 16 November 2021

The Rachel MacGregor Trust has welcomed today’s decision from High Court Judge, Hon. Justice Hinton, regarding the damages to be awarded to Rachel MacGregor as a result of the lengthy defamation proceedings initiated by her former boss, Colin Craig.Today’s announcement – which will see MacGregor awarded damages of $400,000, and costs of approximately $41,000 – follows Justice Hinton’s September 2019 ruling, which found that Craig (founder of the now-defunct Conservative Party) had sexually harassed his former Press Secretary between 2012 and 2014, and subsequently defamed her. Spokesperson and Trustee for The Rachel MacGregor Trust, Nicola Taylor, says that while today’s decision is a welcomed one, the figure will not come close to addressing the emotional, mental, reputational and financial harm that has been inflicted on MacGregor over the course of Craig’s extensive legal campaign.“With this substantial award of damages, Judge Hinton has recognised the very real harm that has been caused by Colin Craig by continuing to publicly lie about her and her character at every opportunity since.  Of course, this is on top of the harm Craig has already been found to have caused to Rachel, firstly through his sexual harassment of Rachel and then through his breach of their confidential settlement agreement in 2015“Craig’s relentless pursuit of Rachel through the courts has forced her to incur legal costs well in excess of $600,000. Even with the generosity of Rachel’s lawyers, Dentons’ Linda Clark and Hayden Wilson, who have donated a huge amount of their time to these cases, the $447,000 will not come close to covering those fees – and will leave Rachel with nothing for the harm caused to her over the last decade.“While the figure represents real vindication of Rachel, the fact is that no amount of money will ever restore the years of life she has lost to this unwanted legal battle, nor the immense impact on her health and wellbeing, since she resigned from her role at the Conservative Party in September 2014,” says Taylor.MacGregor’s experience at the hands of her former boss also serves to shine a light on flaws within New Zealand’s legal system, which allow those in positions of wealth, power and influence to play out their personal disputes in the courts, at great personal cost to their targets. “It is tragic that Rachel has had to engage in this process and go all the way to the Supreme Court to vindicate her position. As a nation, we must do better – for Rachel and for the many other women around the country who have had to endure the same process,” adds Taylor.

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MEDIA

 

BACKGROUND

Rachel was Press Secretary for Conservative Party founder Colin Craig in the lead up to the 2014 election. She filed a sexual harassment claim against Craig with the Human Rights Commission in 2014. They reached a confidential settlement. To this day Rachel has stuck by the terms of that agreement, and has not spoken about the original case or settlement. She had expected to be able to move on, and rebuild her life.
Craig went on to breach the settlement in a series of media conferences, interviews and in a self-produced pamphlet that went to 1.6 million Kiwi homes.
The Human Rights Tribunal found that Mr Craig had “at all times been in a more powerful position than Miss MacGregor. He has used his power and wealth to conduct a calculated campaign of breaches for the sole purpose of attempting to bolster his reputation.”
Since 2014 Craig has drawn Rachel into a series of very public court cases, which has impacted impacted her health, and caused her major financial hardship.
In 2017, Craig filed claims against her for defamation, to which Rachel eventually decided to counter-claim. The trial started in the High Court in September 2018.

 

KEY FINDINGS OF THE HIGH COURT (2019)

Justice Hinton's decision was made public on 19th September 2019. This is our summary of the findings:

  1. Mr Craig’s letters to Ms MacGregor were ‘highly inappropriate’ for an employer to send to an employee and had clear sexual content (paragraphs [21], [31], [45], and [53]).

  2. Ms MacGregor’s responses to Mr Craig were ‘markedly more restrained’ and contained no sexual references or innuendo (paragraphs [37] and [48]). The affectionate and appreciative language of Ms MacGregor’s texts to Mr Craig were really responding to his effusive flattery of her, both personally, and in terms of her work. She did not encourage or reciprocate his sexual comments and overtones (paragraph [179]).

  3. Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor from 2012 onwards. Mr Craig’s letters, texts, and comments were unwelcome to Ms MacGregor from early 2012 onwards. It does not matter that she did not specifically object to them. An employee in her position often would not (paragraph [176]). The sexual harassment covered a period of approximately two and a half years (paragraph 182]).

  4. Mr Craig’s sexual conduct had a detrimental effect on Ms MacGregor (paragraph [180]).

  5. Ms MacGregor ought not to have told Mr Williams that Mr Craig was a bad employer who failed to negotiate and agree pay rates and pay her invoices when they were due. She also ought not to have told Mr Williams that Mr Craig had harassed, abused or been nasty towards two or more women.

  6. The loan which Mr Craig gave to Ms MacGregor was ‘somewhat paternalistic’ (paragraph [61]) and would have been ‘usurious’ if Ms MacGregor had had to pay the interest following her default (paragraph [212]).

  7. Mr Craig’s press statements, letter to the Conservative Party, and the Dirty Politics booklet went too far in asserting that Mr MacGregor’s allegations of sexual harassment were false. The statements went beyond what was necessary to respond to the attacks on him (paragraphs [215], [244], 254]) and were not responsible (paragraphs [216], [244], [255])

  8. Ms MacGregor was entitled to share her tweet on 22 June 2015 as it was a responsible and proportionate response to Mr Craig’s irresponsible and unfair attack on her (paragraph [233]).

  9. Overall, Ms MacGregor was successful in most of her claims against Mr Craig as the court found that she was sexually harassed by Mr Craig. The only claim which she did not succeed on was Mr Craig’s comments about her finances. Mr Craig was partially successful in his claim about some of the things Ms MacGregor said to Mr Williams but was otherwise unsuccessful.

  10. The parties now need to provide written submissions on damages and costs. Ms MacGregor’s submissions are due on 4 October 2019 and Mr Craig’s are due on 25 October 2019. A decision on damages will follow some time after that.

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RACHEL MACGREGOR WELCOMES HIGH COURT DECISION

19 September 2019

Rachel MacGregor welcomes the decision released today by Justice Hinton that found that Colin Craig sexually harassed her from 2012 onwards for a period of 2.5 years. The judgment found the harassment was unwelcome, and not encouraged or reciprocated. The court found that Mr. Craig’s sexual conduct had a detrimental effect on Ms. MacGregor. A decision on damages will follow.

“This decision is the third to find that Mr Craig sexually harassed me. It’s a relief to have the courts confirm that when I filed my complaint I did so truthfully. It’s my strong wish that Justice Hinton’s ruling is not appealed by Mr Craig and that he finally leaves me alone to get on with my life.


“After all this time, and all this litigation, I just want this awful ordeal to be finally over,” Ms MacGregor said today.

 
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THE RACHEL MACGREGOR TRUST

The Rachel MacGregor Trust was formed in 2017, with a focus on helping Rachel meet the considerable legal fees and costs she will face to fight a lengthy High Court trial.


In June 2017, it became clear Colin Craig intended to sue his former Press Secretary, Rachel MacGregor, for defamation. The action, secretly filed but subsequently leaked to media, was the latest in a long line of high profile court cases taken by Mr Craig and others in the wake of the sexual harassment claim laid against him by Rachel in 2014, and confidentially settled through the Human Rights Commission dispute resolution process. In each of those cases, Rachel has been drawn completely unwillingly into the public eye and onto the witness stand to relive these events. This time, she faces the High Court as both defendant and claimant.


The power imbalance in this case is striking. The emotional, financial and physical impact on Rachel has been considerable. Sparked by an op-ed written by broadcaster Alison Mau a group of prominent Kiwi women came together to find a way to support Rachel and formed The Rachel MacGregor Trust.

 
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DONATE TO SUPPORT RACHEL

Since 2014 Craig has drawn Rachel into a series of very public court cases, which has impacted impacted her health, and caused her major financial hardship. The Rachel MacGregor Trust was formed in 2017, with a focus on helping Rachel meet the considerable legal fees and costs she has faced to fight a lengthy High Court trial.  What we saw looked unfair and unprecedented and like most New Zealanders who discover with gross inequity, we wanted to help.

The costs of her latest high court legal defense have amounted to approximately $300,000.

Use of funds:

The money raised will go towards Rachel’s legal fees and other costs related to the trial.

Together we can send a clear message that here in New Zealand, access to justice is not just for those with the most money and power.

Donate:

Donations are extremely gratefully received to the following bank account:

The Rachel MacGregor Trust 02-0192-0270530-000

BNZ SWIFT code for international payments is BKNZNZ22

 

RACHEL'S STATEMENT

19 September 2019

“This decision is the third to find that Mr Craig sexually harassed me. It’s a relief to have the courts confirm that when I filed my complaint I did so truthfully. It’s my strong wish that
Justice Hinton’s ruling is not appealed by Mr Craig and that he finally leaves me alone to get on with my life.


“After all this time, and all this litigation, I just want this awful ordeal to be finally over,” Ms MacGregor said today.


“I’ve found that filing a sexual harassment complaint is a very difficult thing to do. At the very least, I hope that NZ 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 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.


"I feel so fortunate that after hearing Mr Craig had lodged a claim against me, a small group of incredible New Zealanders joined together to create a Trust to support the legal battle.


"I want to send a deep thank you to everyone who has made a contribution so far to the Givealittle page set up by the Trust to help pay the legal costs. Seeing how generous Kiwis decided to be is really humbling. It’s given me a great deal of strength knowing that there are some people out there who can really see the injustice of the situation and are willing to do something to try to stop it. I can only hope that this case prevents other cases like it in the future.


"I also want to thank my tireless legal team Hayden Wilson and Linda Clark from Kensington Swan. Linda saw what I was going through by reading about it in the paper and decided to reach out to offer to help. I’m so very grateful she did. I simply could not have done this on my own."