26 Sep 2018

Colin Craig: 'I think it's okay for people to talk about their feelings'

6:31 pm on 26 September 2018

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been grilled over the letters he sent his former press secretary.

Colin Craig presents his defamation case against former press secretary Rachel MacGregor in the High Court in Auckland.

Colin Craig presents his defamation case against former press secretary Rachel MacGregor in the High Court in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Mr Craig and Rachel MacGregor are suing one another for defamation in the High Court in Auckland.

Ms MacGregor resigned as his press secretary two days before the 2014 election and the pair later reached a confidential settlement over a sexual harassment claim and a financial dispute.

Under cross examination by her lawyer Hayden Wilson today, Mr Craig was asked to read through a Christmas letter he sent her in 2013.

In it he wrote her two poems, including one in which he said he wished there could be two of him - one for her and one for everyone else.

Mr Craig told the court the poem was not inappropriate in context and it was in response to a conversation they'd had.

He also wrote a list of reasons why she was beautiful which included "your lips are so amazing to kiss" and "you're beautiful because you have the most perfect dot, dot, dot".

He prefaced that part of the letter with "please skip if inappropriate".

He said he did not dispute that some of that was inappropriate and sexual but he had been trying to encourage her and the pair were close.

At one point he said he had deleted part of the letter which he said he felt concerned would breach boundaries they had set.

The pair had kissed on the night of the 2011 election and Mr Craig said they put guidelines in place to ensure it did not happen again.

Mr Wilson quizzed Mr Craig about why he had talked about his feelings at all.

"Putting in the context of Christianity, which is something Rachel and I talked about a lot, there's this idea of temptation. There's lots of things in life you might want to do, it's not wrong to admit to that, I mean we're all human and we all have desires and so on, but the important thing is to rein those things in or to control them."

Mr Wilson went on to ask whether in terms of Ms MacGregor the wrong thing would be to give in to his desires.

"So you're saying it's okay for you to write to someone who works for you... about your physical desire... as long as you don't act on it, that's okay?," Mr Wilson asked.

Mr Craig responded with: "This is in the context of a very close friendship where things have happened and my understanding we've mutually agreed 'nah, that can't happen again' and we talk about that and we do things to make sure that it doesn't.

"I think it's okay for people to talk about their feelings with one another to the point that the other person is prepared to hear and listen.

"But if someone draws the line in the sand and says "hey you know what, I don't want to hear about your feelings", well, I think that's different then."

Mr Craig went on to say that he agreed it may not always be easy for an employee to speak up to their employer, however "if in a situation, let's say there was changing relationship and they wanted to re-calibrate or adjust the relationship or do something differently, I do think there's an obligation on them to say that".

"So your position in this context is there was an obligation on Rachel to explicitly say: 'No, I don't want to hear about your physical desire for me'?" Mr Wilson asked him.

"I think in the context about whether something's sexual harassment or not - because it specifically relates to that - yeah, I think there is an obligation on someone to ... They shouldn't welcome conduct if they don't want it. Yeah I do, I think that if someone says "yes" then that's the yes whether they're thinking secretly "no", no one can read your mind so yeah I think there is an obligation on people to state their position on anything on life.

He agreed that it was his case that Ms MacGregor welcomed the conversations.

The gift of jewellery

Mr Craig bought Ms MacGregor jewellery on two occasions.

The first was a silver heart locket in 2011, which Mr Craig said his wife had bought.

"Your wife bought a silver heart locket for Rachel in Christmas 2011?" Mr Wilson asked.

"Yes, well, obviously we talked about it together but it was my wife who purchased it as such," Mr Craig responded.

Mr Wilson asked whether, given the pair had kissed on election night, he didn't see the jewellery and think "perhaps that's not appropriate to send to an employee".

Mr Craig said he did not think that.

"If [Ms MacGregor] gives evidence that she didn't like it because it was a silver heart from you would that surprise you?" Mr Wilson asked.

"It would actually, quite a lot," Mr Craig answered.

Mr Craig said he thought Ms MacGregor viewed the gift as from his wife Helen or from both of them.

Mr Wilson also brought up a receipt of three charms Mr Craig bought in 2012 including a gold charm to go on Ms MacGregor's charm bracelet.

"The others were for different people, I think one of those charms went to my wife because she likes to collect charms as well. I'm not sure who the other one went to, it might have gone to my sister," Mr Craig said.

"So you've got for Rachel an abstract gold charm valued at $369, for either your wife or sister an abstract silver charm valued at $45 dollars, and for whoever was the other one a rose's silver spacer valued at $38?" Mr Wilson asked.

Mr Craig said that was correct, but he had bought the charm for Ms MacGregor as the year before she returned the locket and replaced it with a similar charm.

In his 2013 Christmas letter, Mr Craig said he wanted to discuss ideas with Ms MacGregor for a "super present".

Mr Craig told the court he was considering commissioning a replica of a famous painting but the gift never went ahead.

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