Collins' defamation action against MPs hits courts

IAN STEWARD
Last updated 11:26 18/07/2012
collins
JUDITH COLLINS: Taking defamation action against Andrew Little and Trevor Mallard.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard.
STIRRING COLLINS: Labour MP Trevor Mallard has been typically bullish.
Labour MP Andrew Little.
CAMERON BURNELL/Fairfax NZ
LAWYERED UP: Labour MP Andrew Little.

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A defamation case between ACC Minister Judith Collins and Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little will proceed to its next stage despite defence lawyers arguing to postpone it until a Privacy Commission report is complete.

Collins has accused the two MPs of defaming her in relation to a leaked email from former National Party president Michelle Boag.

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

Lawyers for Collins, Mallard and Little discussed the case’s future before Justice Geoffrey Venning in the High Court at Auckland today.

John Tizard, acting for Little and Mallard, applied to the Court for a stay of proceedings until a Privacy Commission report into the leaked email is complete.

Justice Venning declined the application, but agreed to schedule the next court date for November – two months after the report is due to be completed.

The judge noted the report’s findings would not necessarily affect the defamation proceedings, unless the parties agree to settle the case.

A trial date has been set for February next year, and it was expected to take between three and five days if it goes ahead.

At this stage both parties agree the trial should take place before a judge alone, but Justice Venning reserved leave for Tizard to request a jury trial at the settlement conference later this year if he wished.

The defence and plaintiffs must provide each other with documents relating to the case by the end of August.

The next court date, scheduled for November 12, will be a settlement conference between the parties to attempt to resolve the proceedings before they go to trial.

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