Judge throws out Colin Craig's bid to sue former employee for defamation

Colin Craig has become embroiled in multiple legal disputes since he was ousted as leader of the Conservatives.
DAVID WHITE/STUFF

Colin Craig has become embroiled in multiple legal disputes since he was ousted as leader of the Conservatives.

Former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig has been dealt another blow at court, with a judge throwing out his attempt to sue a former employee for defamation.

Judge Gary Harrison said at the Auckland District Court it would be a waste of time to let the embattled businessman proceed with his attempted legal action.

"I have serious misgivings that it would be appropriate to keep these proceedings alive," Harrison wrote, in a decision released on Monday.

Craig claimed he had been defamed by Jacky Stiekema, who previously worked as a trust accounts manager for his company Centurion Management Ltd, and he sought $240,000 in damages.

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The pair previously had a run-in in 2007, when Stiekema complained to the Employment Relations Tribunal about prayer meetings held by Craig in the workplace.

In that case the tribunal awarded Stiekema $3000 - at the time Craig said it was the only employment dispute he'd had in 21 years, although he later became embroiled in a messy public battle with his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

Craig locked horns with Stiekema once again over posts she made on Facebook in 2015, around the time he was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party.

Stiekema was friends with fellow party member John Stringer, and congratulated him on pushing back against Craig's leadership.

"You are one of the very few that stands up against him," she wrote. "Well done! I did it and it caused me lots of pain and I did not even manage to stop him with what he does!"

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Craig's defamation claim was originally filed at the High Court, but it was transferred to the Auckland District Court in March.

Stiekema admitted she had written the Facebook comments, but denied she had made other remarks in further correspondence as claimed by Craig.

Stringer later provided a sworn affidavit that further comments about Craig's behaviour had not, in fact, been made by Stiekema, and were actually from a different associate.

Judge Harrison concluded it was highly unlikely court proceedings would prove Stiekema wrong in her denials, and said the Facebook comments in themselves did not warrant defamation proceedings.

He wrote that only one other of Stringer's 200 friends responded to the message thread, and Stiekema's remarks would have had little impact.

"I regard the effect they would have on Mr Craig's reputation as minimal," he said.

"The costs associated with a trial that would occupy the order of five days, perhaps more, are simply not justified."

Stiekema was given 10 days to file an application for costs.

 - Stuff

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