Collins seeks defamation declaration

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 09:24 30/05/2012
collins
JUDITH COLLINS: Taking defamation action against Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard.
HUTmallardweb
SERVED: Labour MP Trevor Mallard.
Andrew Little
JONATHAN CAMERON
ALSO SERVED: Andrew Little.

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Justice Minister Judith Collins is not seeking damages, but wants the court to declare she was defamed and to award her costs in her case against two Labour MPs.

She has accused Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard and list MP Andrew Little of defaming her in relation to a leaked email from former National Party president Michelle Boag.

Boag emailed Collins about a case involving claimant Bronwyn Pullar, who blew the whistle on ACC releasing confidential details of claimants.

Canterbury University law Professor Ursula Cheer said it was unusual not to seek damages.

"The most common remedies sought are an apology and damages."

The provisions allowing a declaration had hardly ever been taken up, but they were a symbolic way to clear your reputation.

That was the point of including them in the law.

Wellington-based media lawyer Steven Price also said it was unusual not to seek damages.

But it may not follow that Collins thinks she has a weak case.

"It may be a principled stand where she wants to vindicate her reputation without being seen as a gold digger."

However, Mallard said when former NZ First MP Tukuroirangi Morgan took a defamation action him "Tuku Morgan valued his reputation at more than $1m. Mrs Collins has placed no value on hers, whatsoever. That seems strangely appropriate."

A spokeswoman yesterday said Collins was not commenting on her proceedings.

Mallard and Little have vigorously rejected the suggestion they defamed her, and Little has questioned the appropriateness of a Cabinet minister pursuing what he calls a "personal and political vendetta" against him in courts that she is responsible for.

Collins has filed her claim in the High Court at Auckland despite the MPs being based in Wellington and the alleged defamatory comments being made in Wellington. As justice minister, Collins knew Auckland had the longest waiting list for civil hearings, Little said.

The papers allege two causes of action by Mallard in two radio interviews.

They name Little as the second defendant and also refer to comments he made in a radio interview.

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The two MPs refused to co-operate with proceedings or apologise after three letters from her law firm, Morrison Kent.

Little was served with papers last week by a process service agent and Mallard was served with the papers at his electorate office on Monday by an unknown woman.

A man saying he was her relative had made the appointment for her, saying she had been a victim of poor hospital treatment.

"She pulled out the papers and told me I was served and I said 'thank you very much' and took a photo of her," Mallard said. He posted the picture on his Twitter account, ensuring extensive media coverage.

But he said yesterday, nobody had contacted him to identify the woman.

- Stuff

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