21 Sep 2016

Colin Craig tells trial of kiss with press secretary

7:56 am on 21 September 2016

The attack on Colin Craig over his relationship with his former press secretary is unconscionable and lacks regard for the truth, his wife says.

Colin Craig during the press conference announcing his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party (19 June).

Colin Craig during the press conference announcing his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Helen Craig was giving evidence yesterday in the defamation trial against her husband.

The former leader of the Conservative Party is being sued by the Taxpayers' Union founder Jordan Williams over comments he made in a widely distributed leaflet and in a press conference in July last year.

At the centre of the case is Mr Craig's relationship with his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor. Mr Williams has said that Mr Craig's comments suggested Mr Williams had been dishonest and made up allegations about why Ms MacGregor had left her job.

Read about the Colin Craig defamation case in a nutshell here

Throughout the trial, the jury has heard differing accounts of a kiss between Mr Craig and Ms MacGregor on election night in 2011.

But yesterday, for the first time, they heard more details about what took place from Mr Craig.

"It was one of those moments where we were both tired and we did something really stupid which we were both embarassed about later," he said.

But he said neither party objected at the time.

Mr Craig explained that it all unfolded as he and Ms MacGregor were both lying down reflecting on the day.

"She did not massage me and my pants were not off," he said.

"We started off lying down, chatting."

But Mr Craig denied he had taken Ms MacGregor's top off and said she had taken it off herself. He also denied that he had tried to put his hands down her pants or dress.

He said they both regretted what had happened.

"I think both of us were highly embarassed. Something had happened that shouldn't have happened and we both knew that. It's true she expressed regret about what had happened, as did I."

Mrs Craig later told the court that it was obvious to her the relationship between her husband and his press secretary had become too close.

She said her husband had apologised and she had forgiven him.

But Mrs Craig said the allegations Mr Williams and others were making about her husband's relationship with his press secretary were ridiculous and absolutely wrong.

"I considered that this attack on Colin was totally unconscionable with an absolute disregard for the truth. Our accusers had not even spoken to us about any of it," she said.

The couple had thought carefully about how to respond to the allegations that were being repeated on blogs and in the media.

But Mrs Craig maintained that publishing the leaflet was the correct thing to do, given Mr Williams' actions.

"He took confidential information without permission and used that to support lies that he told about my husband," she said.

"He also provided information to media and in particular Whale Oil so that public exposure was guaranteed."

Mrs Craig was not cross-examined by Mr Williams' lawyers.

Other witnesses still to give evidence in the trial in the High Court in Auckland include Garth McVicar, Bob McCoskrie and Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager.

Who's who?

  • Jordan Williams - The plaintiff in the case and executive director of the Taxpayers' Union. He has accused Colin Craig of defaming him in a leaflet that was sent to 1.6 million households around the country in July 2015.
  • Colin Craig - The defendant and former leader of the Conservative Party. He stepped down as leader in mid-2015 amid renewed speculation about his relationship with his former staffer, Rachel MacGregor.
  • Rachel MacGregor - The woman at the centre of the allegations and Mr Craig's former press secretary. She alleges she was sexually harassed by Mr Craig over a long period of time. She quit her job two days before the 2014 election over a pay dispute.
  • Peter McKnight - Mr Williams' lawyer.
  • Stephen Mills - Mr Craig's lawyer. A defamation expert.
  • Justice Katz - The High Court judge presiding over the trial.
  • Steve Taylor - an associate of Mr Craig who moderated the dirty politics pamphlet.
  • John Stringer - Former Conservative Party board member. Gave evidence that there was no smear campaign against Mr Craig. Also said Mr Craig had told board members there was nothing going on with Ms MacGregor.
  • Christine Rankin - Former Conservative Party chief executive and candidate for Epsom in the 2014 election. Told the court she had thought Mr Craig was a moral man who could bring integrity into New Zealand politics.
  • Megan Williams - Mr Williams' mother. Gave tearful evidence defending her son's reputation.
  • Helen Craig - Mr Craig's wife. Expected to give evidence later in the trial for her husband.

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