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Closing arguments heard in Craig case

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/05/2017

Cameron Slater © Phil Walter/Getty Images Cameron Slater Colin Craig © Phil Walter/Getty Images Colin Craig

A High Court judge will soon retire to untangle fact from fiction in the defamation battle between former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig and blogger Cameron Slater.

Justice Kit Toogood may begin considering his judgement in the case as early as Thursday, having heard closing arguments from both parties in Auckland on Wednesday.

Mr Craig is suing Slater for a series of posts on his Whaleoil blog in 2015, saying the blogger "falsely" claimed he sexually harassed his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

Slater is counter-suing Mr Craig over a 12-page pamphlet he sent to 1.6 million homes. He says Mr Craig incorrectly claimed in the pamphlet Slater was deliberately publishing false allegations about him.

Representing himself, Mr Craig said during his closing argument on Wednesday that the heart of the trial rested on who Justice Toogood believed was telling the truth.

He said Slater in 2015 recklessly published a series of demonstrably false allegations, including that Mr Craig sexually harassed Ms MacGregor, put pressure on her financially to sleep with him and paid her a large, six-figure sum of hush money.

Slater also falsely alleged he sexually harassed at least one other woman and was a sexual deviant, Mr Craig said.

He said these allegations contributed to the "media firestorm" that engulfed him after he stood down as leader of the Conservative Party in 2015 and ruined any chance he had of reviving his political career.

His resignation came after Ms MacGregor had earlier resigned suddenly two days before the 2014 election, having worked closely with Mr Craig from about the time he founded the Conservative Party three years earlier.

However, Slater's lawyer Brian Henry, in his closing arguments, said it was Mr Craig's own actions that were responsible for the damage to his reputation, not Slater's blogs.

He said Mr Craig had not only behaved "inappropriately" with Ms MacGregor, but then lied about it and attempted to cover it up.

He said when Mr Craig stood down from the Conservative Party and did not give enough details about why he was doing it during a press conference, he himself ignited the media firestorm that would follow.

He also said Whaleoil was just a small publication compared to New Zealand's mainstream media outlets and that Slater had simply republished many of the allegations made by these larger outlets.

Despite this, Mr Craig had chosen to sue the smaller and less-resourced Slater rather than the outlets that drove most of the media publicity, Mr Henry said.

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