MPs hope to settle defamation case
Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little say it is in the interests of all parties to resolve a defamation case brought against them by ACC Minister Judith Collins when they meet her in court today.
The three politicians, armed with their lawyers, will attend a settlement hearing in the High Court at Auckland for action launched by Ms Collins in May.
She claims the two Opposition MPs defamed her over comments she says linked her to the leaking of an email from former National Party president Michelle Boag over a massive ACC privacy breach.
The pair initially laughed off the action, labelling it "vexatious, politically motivated and lacking principle".
The settlement hearing, which will be closed to the public, is an attempt to resolve the issue before it reaches an expensive jury trial.
Mr Mallard said Ms Collins would be required to make some suggestions about how the matter could be resolved. "Our views and the advice we've had is that there is no defamation. So we don't have very far to move."
But the MPs were aware the public would not want court time being taken up by the case.
"We'll do our best to get the matter settled. [But] you can't apologise for defaming someone when you didn't."
Mr Little said it was in everyone's interest to reach a resolution: "It's a waste of her time as a minister, it's a waste of our time. This is now a question about how everybody can come out of it with some dignity."
Outside the High Court at Auckland Judith Collins emphasised she was only looking for the Labour MPs to say sorry.
"I've always made it very plain that I've been defamed so that needs to be acknowledged," she said. "I've asked for an apology . . . I haven't asked for any money."
The justice minister said she had great faith in the system and though she wasn't keen for the matter to go trial she said it was out of her hands.
"I'm very keen to have this matter resolved and whether it's in this court hearing or not is really up to Messrs Little and Mallard."
Collins indicated she was not confident of a settlement today, based on previous discussions, but would not write it off.
The Dominion Post