Norman scathing as defamation deadline passes

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014

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The deadline for a defamation suit has passed, and Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says his Conservative Party counterpart's "song and dance" has so far proved to be an idle threat.

Dr Norman is not backing down from his comments that sparked the spat, suggesting at Auckland's Big Gay Out that Colin Craig thought a woman's place was in the kitchen and a gay man's place was in the closet.

"My view is that his political beliefs - I find them offensive.

"His views about gay New Zealanders are extremely offensive and I think . . . they are quite hateful," Dr Norman said.

Yesterday, Craig inched toward defamation proceedings, directing his lawyers to draft a claim and provide times for court action.

Norman was given a deadline of 5pm yesterday to retract and apologise for his Big Gay Out comments, otherwise a defamation case would be launched.

"He's made a big song and dance about it all week and here we are, it's D-Day and his response is he's going to talk to some lawyers," Norman said.

An exchange of legal letters between the two saw the feud build over the past week, with Norman refusing to resile from his comments.

Craig said yesterday he had written to his lawyers, asking them to draft a statement of claim, provide an estimation of costs and advise on possible time-frames for court proceedings.

But for the first time, he indicated court action might be dropped if the cost dipped too heavily into campaign funds.

"We have to make decisions between ultimately funding election campaigns or litigation," he said.

"So that's not a small decision to make, and obviously the timing; I mean if the timing is that the case would be heard and take time out in the middle of an election campaign, those things become pretty important considerations as well."

Craig said he would also assess whether the process of launching a defamation case might do more harm than good.

Alternatively, the case could be expanded to include further comments Norman made during interviews since the spat began. "Preliminary legal advice is that part of those comments may also be defamatory."

Dr Norman said: "My next step is very simple - I say to Mr Craig, we won't back down, we stand for an inclusive and tolerant New Zealand. We believe in free political speech and for those reasons we won't back down."

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