Colin Craig pays ‘humiliated’ Rachel MacGregor six-figure sum

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colin-craigColin Craig has been forced to pay former press secretary Rachel MacGregor more than $120,000 for publicly humiliating her.

Until now, a court order prevented Newshub from revealing the details of the scathing Human Rights Review Tribunal (HRRT) decision against the former Conservative Party leader.

The March ruling ordered Mr Craig to pay Ms MacGregor $120,000 in damages for humiliation, loss of dignity and injuring her feelings, and more than $8780 in lost earnings and legal fees.

The decision followed Mr Craig’s repeated breaches of a confidentiality agreement signed as part of the settlement of a sexual harassment and pay claim Ms MacGregor filed after resigning as his press secretary two days before the 2014 election.

It’s on top of an earlier settlement in which Mr Craig agreed to pay Ms MacGregor $16,000 and to wipe an $18,000 loan he’d given to her.

In total, Mr Craig has paid her more than $160,000.

“In 2015 my reputation came under a completely unexpected and relentless public attack. As the attack worsened, my position became increasingly impossible,” Mr Craig said in a statement on the ruling.

“Responding to the attack was a very difficult decision to make, but in the end the attack was so bad I felt I had no real choice. I accepted that I was in breach of my confidentiality obligations both publicly and when the breach was considered by the HRRT. However, I thought there were very strong mitigating circumstances.”

For four months during the latter part of the 2014 election campaign, the pair were locked in a pay dispute about contract fees for her work as his political press secretary.

As a consequence Ms MacGregor wasn’t paid, although Mr Craig did make two $10,000 bridging payments.

The pay and sexual harassment claims were settled in tandem in May last year.

Ms MacGregor agreed to drop her sexual harassment complaint and the pair signed a confidentiality deal preventing them from speaking to the media, other than to say they had “resolved their differences”.

‘Deliberate, repeated breaches’

However, in March, the Human Rights Tribunal found Mr Craig had repeatedly breached that confidentiality agreement and those breaches were “deliberate, repeated and choreographed in such a way as to attract maximum publicity and attention at a national level”.

The former Conservative Party leader held two press conferences and gave several media interviews, in which he commented on Ms MacGregor’s finances, on their relationship and also asserted that she agreed her conduct had, on occasion, been inappropriate.

Mr Craig also circulated nationwide 1.2 million copies of a booklet in which he denied any allegations of sexual harassment. The same denial was included in newsletter that went to 8000 people on the Conservative Party mailing list.

The tribunal said one of the most egregious features of Mr Craig’s breaches was the “relentless exposure” he subjected Ms MacGregor to over a prolonged period.

“Her humiliation and stigmatisation as ‘that woman’ has been held up for all to see,” the ruling said.

It also concluded Mr Craig’s breaches were on a scale possible only “because of his political connections and personal wealth”.

Mr Craig has repeatedly said there was no six-figure settlement of a sexual harassment claim with his former press secretary. However he has paid – or been ordered to pay – more than $160,000 to her to settle the sexual harassment and pay claims and confidentiality breaches.

Mr Craig has always denied he sexually harassed Ms MacGregor. Those allegations were not considered in the tribunal’s rulings.

Colin Craig ‘driven by self-preservation’

Mr Craig was motivated by self-interest and a desire to preserve his political career, the tribunal ruled.

He held two press conferences, conducted multiple press interviews and circulated printed material, even though he knew it breached the confidentiality deal with Ms MacGregor.

But the ruling concluded Mr Craig did not tell the full story.

“Mr Craig was controlling the narrative. He was exercising power and control over what was in the media by carefully releasing what he thought would save his position and save his reputation,” the ruling said.

“The released information was selected … to paint himself as a person who had been falsely accused by a woman who was clearly incapable of managing her money, and the clear inference was that what she was seeking through the sexual harassment complaint was money.”

Mr Craig broke the confidentiality agreement after he discovered members of the Conservative Party knew details of Ms MacGregor’s sexual harassment claim, and after a poem he had written and sent to her appeared on a blog site.

The former Conservative Party leader said he thought Ms MacGregor had leaked the information, but later conceded his assumption had been wrong.

In a decision highly critical of Mr Craig, the tribunal said the breaches of his confidentiality obligations had been “deliberate, sustained and calculated… and engineered to attract maximum publicity”.

“He did not stumble into the breaches. He sought, fed and received media attention.”

On the other hand, the tribunal described Ms MacGregor as “an honest witness” and it accepted her evidence “in its entirety”.

It also agreed with her description of Mr Craig’s evidence as being “nothing short of a vilification of her”.

Mr Craig also told the tribunal he “held her responsible for his political downfall”, an allegation he later retracted.

The tribunal found Ms MacGregor’s reputation had been “severely tarnished”.

The ruling said Ms MacGregor signed up to a process designed to protect claimants in sexual harassment cases, but the “systematic violation of her legal rights has left her traumatised, marginalised and disempowered”.

The association with Mr Craig and the much talked about “inappropriate behaviour” is now indelible.

“For a woman navigating a career in communications, the harm will be long-lasting.”