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A basic primer on the law of defamation

Written By: - Date published: 5:58 pm, April 10th, 2017 - 133 comments
Categories: Andrew Little, labour, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

The jury decision in the Hageman defamation case is now out and the reporting has been, how shall I put this, sub optimal. Some media are reporting that Little has been found guilty of defamation.

Following are a few comments quickly typed up in the 5:30 PM train on the Western Line.

First up, Andrew Little has not been found guilty of anything. The case is a civil case, not a criminal one. Mr and Mrs Hagaman have said that they have lost money because Little said awful things about them and their reputation has been damaged. They want to be compensated.

From media reports of the trial there were six separate occasions when Little said unnice things about them. It appears the Jury has held that the nasty things claimed to have been said about Mrs Hagaman are not actionable, and only one of six things said about Mr Hagaman may be.

They then said that they could not decide if qualified privilege applies. If it does it is normally the end of the matter. Qualified privilege basically means that you can say nasty things about people but there is a good public policy reason for allowing this to happen, such as our political parties ought to be opened up to scrutiny and tough questions should be asked when things look unhealthy for our democratic system.

Some cases, such as this one involves a Jury. The Jury’s role is to listen to the instructions of the Judge and then deliver a verdict. After they have done so the Judge then may enter Judgment in accordance with the verdict but not necessarily. The Judge still has the power to give judgment to the party who did not seem to actually win.

In this case, from the media reports, the Jury is unable to say if qualified privilege applies and have not delivered a verdict. Presumably this means they cannot decide if Little was motivated by malice when he said whatever he did say.

If a court holds that a defamation has occurred and that qualified privilege does not apply then the correct thing to do is to enter judgment and then decide on the amount of damages.

This is why Little’s offer of $100,000 damages may become very relevant.

Presumably it was made by way of a Calderbank offer. This means that if only one of six causes of action succeeds and the damages are less than this then the award of costs could go against the Hageman’s even though they may have succeeded in Court.

Time will tell. But the next media outlet that says that Little has been found guilty of defaming the Hagemans ought to rethink their role in life.

133 comments on “A basic primer on the law of defamation”

  1. billmurray 1

    At last a clear and understood piece on the jury’s decision.
    Well done.
    I hope Andrews lawyer seeks out a final statement/ settlement on this matter with the Hagamans legal officer’s.
    Andrew needs this matter off the front pages.

    • Barfly 1.1

      Vindictive action by uber wealthy National Party boosters…..

      “Andrew needs this matter off the front pages.”

      Not so sure

      • Blade 1.1.1

        What vindictive action would that be?

        • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1

          Oh, I agree, Lani just wanted an apology, the $2.3M damages claim happened purely by accident. No malice there at all.

          Pity about her costs, eh. A real shame. It’s sad to see Act donors out of pocket.

          • Cemetery Jones 1.1.1.1.1

            Toupee, or not toupee – for Hagaman, that is the question.

          • Blade 1.1.1.1.2

            Little was given a chance to apologise. Hell, Little even offered them 100 grand, which isn’t bad for a Lefty. An apology costs nothing except a bit of mana, which in my opinion Andy has very little.

            No malice here. Only from you.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1.2.1

              Meanwhile, on Earth, Lani sued Andrew and lost on all counts. Andrew has clearly demonstrated his sympathy for her situation, but he’s not obliged to give her anything, since his remarks weren’t about her.

              For my part, considering the miseries her political donations buy, I think she got off lightly.

              • Blade

                ‘Meanwhile, on Earth, Lani sued Andrew and lost on all counts. Andrew has clearly demonstrated his sympathy for her situation.’

                Rubbish, the left don’t do empathy as Cemetery Jones comments above show. Andy isn’t off scott free. Hopefully a new trial with a jury whose IQ quotient is above 100 will not let Andy off so lightly.

                • We, “the left” have empathy alright, with Andrew Little in this instance. Not just empathy either; Cemetery Jones’ comments show that “the left” do humour as well. Blade, otoh, seems comfortable insulting others, in this case, the good men and women of the jury; or was that an attempt at humour, from “the right”?

                  • Blade

                    No, it wasn’t an attempt at humour, it was an experiment in pack mentality. With that I must go, until hopefully the next court case where sanity prevails and we can have this discussion again. That, or after the election. I’m not fussy.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Yes, run along now, you vindictive shill.

                    • greywarshark

                      OOh er methinks there is a slight bias towards the Hagamans. Hell hath no fury like that of a potentially richer person having the goodies swept from under their noses.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  And there’s your vindictiveness on display.

                  I empathise with Lani. It must be quite confronting to realise others view you differently than you would like.

                  • Blade

                    Not everyone thinks in your skewered way, 1AG. You must accept that. I can’t find a reply icon on your above post? lol.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      That’s because replies don’t go beyond about eight levels down.

                      That’s quite an astonishing revelation, that not everyone thinks like me. Did you come up with it all on your own? It’s very profound.

                      You came to display your vindictive malice towards Andrew Little, and you succeeded in looking like a sore loser. Cheer up.

                    • “the left don’t do empathy”
                      Still reeling over that one, being a bleeding heart ‘n’all, y’know, snails, whales, the homeless, oppressed minorities, the dispossessed, people who awake each day in tears with the awful realization that, yes, John’s gone…

                    • Blade

                      Eight levels down, OK.

                      ‘You came to display your vindictive malice towards Andrew Little, and you succeeded in looking like a sore loser. Cheer up.’

                      I came here because Andy had reluctantly apologised publicly. He knew he was wrong. That new trial you didn’t want..well its probably coming, chum. Why do I have to be vindictive towards a guy who’s an abject failure. Likely to be replaced by Cindy after the next election?

                      Cheer up? I’m not the one getting snotty. Hence my comments about your thought processes not being like others. Others don’t have the ability to make trolling look so good.

                    • mickysavage []

                      You have no idea about legal tactics do you.

                    • Blade

                      Re Mickey Savage.

                      It depends on how you want to look at this case. I look at it from a simple point of right or wrong or uncalled for insinuations.

                      Others look at from a political or legal ploy point of view. And a case could be made from that.

                      Whether Little is legally better off at the moment. Whether he is politically better off or whether leverage is being applied to the left , I don’t know.

                • Gosh Blade, keep your hair on. No need to wig out about it.

    • lprent 1.2

      It was pretty obvious right from the start that the statements, given the public policy implications, were unlikely to succeed.

      Basically it is the job of opposition MPs to hold questionable activities and policies that may impact on the government’s performance to the light. The same with any political parties. This is part of the system that we use to keep the politicians more or less honest.

      There is probably nothing more important than holding the role of political donations and their influence on government policy. That is why there is a role for qualified privilege. Of course Andrew Little could have raised this in parliament where he would have had unqualified privilege. But he chose to do it in public probably to ensure that it was debated.

      But what he was asking for was that the matter was investigated by the auditor general – which is subsequently was. That was easily within the remit of a opposition politician, as was highlighting WHY he was concerned.

      It looks like the jury understood the law pretty well by the end of trial. I have no idea why anyone thought it would go differently.

      Even if the jury had ruled against him, then it would have either gotten overturned by the judge or overturned on appeal.

      • AmaKiwi 1.2.1

        If the Hagemans had made their $100,000 donation to National anonymously, there could not have been any question of bribery.

        They didn’t. Why not?

        • mpledger 1.2.1.1

          They thought no one would bother looking?

        • fender 1.2.1.2

          They wanted their name attached to it, like oil to help the gears slip into place?

        • Craig H 1.2.1.3

          It’s above the threshold for anonymous donations in the Electoral Act, so National were legally required to disclose it?

          • AmaKiwi 1.2.1.3.1

            @ Craig H

            If they donated the $100,000 AFTER the government contract was awarded, instead of ONE month before, bribery would be less of an issue.

            Why didn’t they?

            Our wonderful capitalist government is always for sale to the highest bidder. The long term health our people, society, and environment is always secondary to the demands of the capitalists. We have the best government money can buy.

          • Matthew Whitehead 1.2.1.3.2

            Yes and no.

            National are required to disclose it if they receive a donation from a given person above the threshold.

            However, there is no obligation for a given person to make such a donation in a fashion that the intent of disclosure must be followed. They could always have arranged to have it laundered to the National Party in a way that it was more seemingly-anonymous, or even split it up to go through several different legal entities so that none of them crossed the threshold requiring non-anonymity.

            Given that those options are open and not illegal, it makes you wonder why they didn’t bother.

            • Craig H 1.2.1.3.2.1

              True. Maximum anonymous donation is $1500,but you’re right that theoretically that could be avoided over time .

  2. Barfly 2

    “Time will tell. But the next media outlet that says that Little has been found guilty of defaming the Hagemans ought to rethink their role in life.”

    Perhaps they are defaming Andrew Little?

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Qualified privilege applies to them as well. As long as it was not motivated by malice then politicians are free shots, as they should be.

      • s y d 2.1.1

        and yet the NZ Herald has this, right now at the end of their story

        “Earlier, the Herald reported Little was guilty of defamation on one occasion. This has now been corrected and clarified in this story.”

        and then later on their front page video piece has this as the caption..

        “Watch: Little defamation case – Lani Hagaman reacts
        Lani Hagaman is happy to clear her husband’s name as Andrew Little is found to have defamed Earl Hagaman at least once”

        so they throw some mud, get caught out, change that story, but throw the same mud pie somewhere else…

        • mary_a 2.1.1.1

          @ s y d (2.1.1) … and also another of its massive reporting fails over the jury decision in the case, NZH calls Judge Karen Clark, Helen Clark! This was in the first edition it published, but has since been taken down.

          NZH too trigger happy to nail Andrew Little, can’t get the judge’s name right! And this is our msm folks! Pathetic.

  3. gsays 3

    It seems to me, perhaps,John key planted a greater awareness of the notion of:
    speaking as the leader of the opposition,
    speaking as leader of the labour party etc.

  4. McFlock 4

    Actually, and please correct me if I’m wrong, there were six statements that contained things.

    The jury did not find that any of those things were about Lani Hagaman.

    The jury determined, by majority decision, that one of those things was about Earl Hagaman.

    They couldn’t come to a decision that the thing about Earl was something Little was allowed to say, or whether it was mean, or what damages were incurred.

    The total jury decision was “someone could reasonably think that one of those statements concerned Earl Hagaman, other than that we really can’t say”.

    • Carolyn_nth 4.1

      Lani has stated that one of the things Little said about Earl has been judged by the jury to be defamatory.

      • McFlock 4.1.1

        oh cool, yeah rereading an article one statement was defamatory but they couldn’t agree on protection.

        So it was mean, but he might have been allowed to say it, lol

        • mickysavage 4.1.1.1

          Basically!

        • Sacha 4.1.1.2

          How can it be “defamatory” if they couldn’t decide if it qualified for protection? Potentially defamatory seems more accurate.

          But good news: if she feels vindicated maybe we can all get back to more substantive matters less than 6 months from an election. Like reckons about pizza.

          • lprent 4.1.1.2.1

            It is the difference between a case for something being made and a defence.

            For instance the obvious on e is that you could say something completely horrible about someone and it could damage their reputation – ie be defamatory. That it happens to be a true statement is a good defence.

          • mickysavage 4.1.1.2.2

            Don’t start me on pineapple …

          • Matthew Whitehead 4.1.1.2.3

            If you’ve ever heard the phrase “prima facie,” this is where it applies.

            The jury found one comment to be prima facie defamatory- that is, that reputational damage most likely occurred, regardless of whether they consider Andrew Little to actually be legally liable for that reputational damage.

            Until someone decides whether Little’s qualified privilege defense actually applies, that prima facie decision is pretty meaningless. It’s sort of like trying to figure out who’s going to win a cricket match when you’ve never seen the two teams play against each other before, and you’ve only seen one team batting so far.

      • lprent 4.1.2

        Yes. But the same jury was uncertain if that one statement (out of twelve all up wasn’t it) was within the bounds of the same qualified privilege that allows us to slag off politicians.

        Politicians have a duty (actually they’re employed to do it) to raise matters that might affect the public good – and the jury got this one right. The point about awarding of taxpayer funds needs to have a clear and transparent process and path, especially when the recipient is a donor to a political party of government.

        It might have been defamatory. However it wasn’t winnable because of the public policy issues that Andrew Little was right to bring to the attention of the public.

        Hopefully this has clarified the role of qualified privilege in defamation law a bit more. It is a pity that this didn’t go to a judge. A actual judgement would clarify it more.

        Of course it won’t satisfy the affluent self-adsorbed and the legal idiots. But hey what would?

  5. billmurray 5

    Barfly,
    IMHO
    Court case’s and continuum of legal argument will negate the election message’s that Andrew needs to promote.
    Only 5 months left, 30% LP and 7% leadership needs improvement.
    A clean unfettered election campaign is needed

    [lprent: My well-honed troll detector says that you are concern trolling with a touch of astroturfing. In the meantime, I can’t see anything in the posts about the election which makes it diversionary as well.

    If you want to stay commenting on this site over the next 6 month, then I would suggest that you stop and read the site policy. But as a general rule, you bets bet is to simply say what you actually think rather than trying to be an ignorant, stupid and rather obvious smartarse. Most here tend to respect people who argue their viewpoint far more than someone so obviously in love with their groin brain.

    This is your warning. ]

  6. Anne 6

    http://i.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/91390066/labour-leader-andrew-little-cleared-of-defamation-against-lani-hagaman-new-trial-possible-over-earl-hagaman-comments

    Well done Andrew Little. He should receive kudos for this lengthy media stand-up just posted. It remains to be seen if the media give it to him.

  7. dv 7

    What could be the basis of the suggested appeal(s)?

  8. timeforacupoftea 8

    Clap clap clap clap !

  9. BM 9

    Boils down to the fact that Little is a blundering clown with the political nous of Jeremy Corbyn.

    PM I don’t think so, hyper-aggressive union guy barking like a rabid dog at employers, yep.

    For a guy struggling to get any traction this was the final straw, as leader he’s well and truly done.

    • Muttonbird 9.1

      Haha. He makes a stand for all New Zealanders against corruption and wins, and you can’t even congratulate him on it?

      Your bitterness knows no bounds.

      • BM 9.1.1

        He hasn’t won anything, he insulted an old guy who has donated fuck loads of money to many charities and then didn’t even have the nous to say “Sorry about that Earl for dragging you into this, but I was doing my job as the leader of the opposition” when the deal was cleared by the AG

        He looks about as far away from being PM material as anyone could be.

    • ScottGN 9.2

      Your grip on reality seems particularly tenuous today BM?

      • McFlock 9.2.1

        Rich person lost a court case. This has really shaken BM’s faith in the justice system.

    • mickysavage 9.3

      I personally thought the issue was an important one. If the Hagamans succeeded then there was the risk that any time there was a suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by National the associated individual might pop up and sue.

      Ever since Atkinson v Lange the legal tolerance for robust political debate has been high. I personally think this is a good thing.

      • Pete George 9.3.1

        I agree it was an important issue. But this hasn’t really clarified much has it?

        It is by no means a definitive outcome. There remains some doubt as to how far a politician can go making unsubstantiated accusations, especially when they involve non politicians.

        In the stand up afterwards Little repeated “that words I used have caused them hurt”.

        While what Little said was outside the House there have been some fairly dirty accusations made inside Parliament (by others) where protections are greater.

        While legal privilege gives politicians special protections it must also mean additional responsibilities to be as fair and accurate as possible.

        • mickysavage 9.3.1.1

          Not yet but I anticipate the lawyers will be arguing before the Judge soon trying to persuade her to follow/completely ignore the jury verdict.

          There may be appeals. The Judge’s decision and the appeal decisions if any will provide some guidance. The jury result is important because defamation law is predicated on what ordinary people think about what was said.

          Politics hurts often. The test is or should be what amount of hurt must be tolerated to allow our democracy to function properly.

        • Andre 9.3.1.2

          “…especially when they involve non politicians.”

          Seems to me that the acts of donating sums adding up to six figures to the political party in government, at the same time as you have substantial interests in an enterprise negotiating a large contract with said government, should be treated as taking a leap towards the grounds occupied by politicians when it comes to being the subject of robust debate

          • Pete George 9.3.1.2.1

            So anyone who donates to political parties should be treated as anything goes when it comes to unsubstantiated accusations?

            I don’t think any parties would be comfortable with that.

            • mickysavage 9.3.1.2.1.1

              That is not what Andre was saying. But donations in the six figures need to be reviewed carefully …

              • So anyone who donates $100k + should be subjected to close scrutiny?

                Why not 2 x $50? Or five times $20k over say five years?

                Should donor unions be fair game?

                And in any case should unsubstantiated accusations be acceptable?

                That runs a risk of speculative fishing expeditions – one particular non-Labour MP has a reputation for throwing around accusations under privilege and then expecting the police or Parliament to go find evidence for them. I don’t think that dirty sort of politics should be seen as acceptable.

                • McFlock

                  Pete, it’s a fuzzy logic situation with a reasonable-person test.

                  If a politician overplays the card, they’ll have troubles in the next election. Otherwise they’re serving their public duty.

                  • I know different people will see things differently (often depending on their political preferences).

                    I’d just prefer that any politician with special legal privilege should be responsible enough to not make serious accusations without having a reasonable level of evidence to back up their claims.

                    • McFlock

                      Yes, we know you’d prefer it to be more difficult for elected representatives to hold the powerful in the land to account, or even simply call for an inquiry.

                    • Muttonbird

                      Hmm. I remember John Key claiming Labour backed murderers and rapists. Where was his evidence?

                    • lprent

                      That really is the point. The special legal privilege is specifically there to deal with suspicions of malfeasance and deeply suspicious connections.

                      In exactly the same way that we can be deeply suspicious of politicians and have the qualified privilege to criticise them.

                      Do you really think that such privileges only go one way? They go both ways because that is what is required to keep a certain degree of transparency on the political process.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Sometimes there may be a perception of a conflict of interest where the interests come close but do not actually overlap. It may still be necessary to take some steps to manage these situations. Not taking steps to manage these risks can undermine an entity’s reputation.

                      Types of other interest:

                      having received a gift, hospitality, or other benefit from someone…

                      Managing Conflicts of Interest (pdf). Office of the Auditor General.

                      I’m with the Auditor General: there’s a perception that a conflict of interest exists and an entity’s reputation has been undermined.

                      As if donating to the National Party or Act weren’t enough degradation as it is.

                • mickysavage

                  Sure all of that. Less than a thousand then there should be no problem. Five or six figures and then it needs to be checked out.

                  • dukeofurl

                    Judith Collins sued Little and Mallard because they said she leaked an ACC complainants details.
                    She was only after an apology which she got but she had to admit it was her who ‘passed on’ the complainants details.

                    She was definitely trying to shut them up. She got nothing politically in the end except that she was essentially untruthful.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Messrs Mallard and Little have confirmed to Ms Collins that was not their intention and wish to make that clear publicly and in the event such meaning was taken, they regret it.

                      Translation: “we pity your failure to understand what we said”.

                    • dukeofurl

                      Thats interesting version of it.
                      Steve Price called it a non aplogy
                      “The parties agree the leak of the email Ms Boag sent to the Minister and forwarded on her instructions, as the responsible minister, to the chairman and chief executive of ACC, raised an issue of serious public concern and that Messrs Mallard and Little were entitled to question who was responsible for that leak.”
                      http://www.medialawjournal.co.nz/?p=581

                      Since Collins claimed she didnt leak but then she said she did ‘pass it on as the responsible minister’, she came out with egg on her face

            • Psycho Milt 9.3.1.2.1.2

              So anyone who donates to political parties should be treated as anything goes when it comes to unsubstantiated accusations?

              That straw man is way too big to fit on this thread, Pete. Perhaps you could try misrepresenting only one part of Andre’s comment at once, so the place doesn’t get filled up with straw.

              • Put it back into your straw man storehouse, Pete, where you keep all the others, crammed cheek to scratchy jowl and drag them out less frequently – people are starting to notice that they are but hollow men.

            • Andre 9.3.1.2.1.3

              It’s continuums, not binaries.

              Donate a few hundy, like most kiwis could do, and you still get treated like an ordinary kiwi. Donate six figures, which is a political act way beyond the means of the overwhelming majority of kiwis and is a large enough sum to carry a risk of corrupt influence, then expect you should expect increased scrutiny and a greater risk of being the subject of poorly phrased comment. Phillip Mills seemed to understand that.

              Doing business with the government should also carry increased scrutiny over purely private sector deals. Because the government funds itself from powers of compulsion, which the private sector generally doesn’t have. Ordinary dealings get ordinary scrutiny. Extraordinary deals get extraordinary scrutiny, with an increased risk of poorly phrased comment. That Niue hotel deal has a number of characteristics that appear outside the ordinary business of government, so yes it deserves extraordinary scrutiny.

              In this case, the Hagamans combined at least two acts well outside ordinary people’s experience, but are deep into political areas deserving extraordinary scrutiny and comment.

              Ordinary kiwis could reasonably contemplate serving on local boards or even local government councils. So those low-level “politicians” should still get close to the same protections as ordinary people. But at the level of large city mayor or MP, then it’s way outside the experience of ordinary kiwis and increased risk of hurtful comment goes with the position. Top levels of central government are a whole ‘nother level where a rhino hide and serious big boy pants should be the expectation.

              Pete, you seem to be of the opinion that scrutiny of the rich and powerful is a bad thing.

          • mosa 9.3.1.2.2

            Totally agree Andre.

    • Sacha 9.4

      “hyper-aggressive union guy barking like a rabid dog at employers”

      Yeah you might want to check that with some of the employers he dealt with as a union lawyer. Constructive reputation, apparently.

  10. greywarshark 10

    Here is a link. Earl Hageman is a wealthy American who is 91. He has a very pretty youngish wife. He has dark hair, while Trump prefers apricot. Nothing should ripple his pond. His wife is a financial manager and oversees Scenic Hotels. End of story.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/79425604/of-political-sideswipes-meet-the-hagamans-of-christchurch

    • ropata 10.1

      Cool. Zillionaires can immigrate to NZ, plonk a hefty donation in the Nat party coffers, get a plum contract from the Government, and take annoying politicians to Court. And the Judge tells the jury “this is not about politics”.

  11. Sacha 11

    Idiot/Savant concludes: “At this stage, it looks like a win for Little: the case will probably end, and if it doesn’t, it will be clear that it is a purely political exercise, aimed at distracting and possibly bankrupting Little in an election year. ”

    http://norightturn.blogspot.co.nz/2017/04/nationals-proxy-attack-fails.html

  12. Sacha 12

    Nicky Hager wrote in 2009 about how easily our defamation system favours political reprisal from those with wealth: http://www.nickyhager.info/crosby-v-hager-defamation-proceedings-as-political-weapon/

    • mickysavage 12.1

      Yep this sort of fight is not for the faint hearted or those without significant resources. Imagine how you would feel if because of a couple of slightly clumsily phrased sentences you watched your life’s accumulation of wealth disappear in lawyer’s bills and paying compensation for those whose feelings had been hurt.

    • ropata 12.2

      +1 another eye opening piece by NZ’s best journalist

    • ropata 12.3

      An article on The Spinoff lays out exactly that, it’s a paint-by-numbers way for the wealthy to attack people that say inconvenient things in public.
      Watching the Hagaman-Little defamation trial, it felt like everybody lost.

      • Muttonbird 12.3.1

        From that article:

        Little couldn’t be liable for defamation when speaking as leader of the opposition on a matter of public interest and on which questions were being put to him.

        The Judge said this apparently. The irony is that the judge offered this defence of Andrew Little against National Party backed attacks in the form of the Hagaman court case, yet John Key used the same defence on a number of occasions.

  13. Neil 13

    Im amazed the Hagaman’s havent gone after all those on social media & those commenting on news articles that are saying the Hagaman’s are corrupt, unscrupulious & dodgy if they are so offended by what Andrew Little said or didnt say.
    Surely the comments on social media & news articles is just as defamertory as what Andrew little said or didnt say.

  14. weka 14

    Micky, it’s Hagaman not Hageman 🙂

    [Right you are. Now corrected. Told you I typed it up on a train! – MS]

    • Sacha 14.1

      Hagar, Hager, who knows the difference these days?

      • mickysavage 14.1.1

        My bad.

        • Sacha 14.1.1.1

          I was going to say “they’ll live”. #doh

          • mickysavage 14.1.1.1.1

            I like the approach of Private Eye to the request for apologies because of alleged defamation. The correspondence in the case of Arkell v Pressdram is a hoot:

            From the Plaintiff:

            We act for Mr Arkell who is Retail Credit Manager of Granada TV Rental Ltd. His attention has been drawn to an article appearing in the issue of Private Eye dated 9th April 1971 on page 4. The statements made about Mr Arkell are entirely untrue and clearly highly defamatory. We are therefore instructed to require from you immediately your proposals for dealing with the matter.

            Mr Arkell’s first concern is that there should be a full retraction at the earliest possible date in Private Eye and he will also want his costs paid. His attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of your reply.”

            The response was:

            We acknowledge your letter of 29th April referring to Mr. J. Arkell.

            We note that Mr Arkell’s attitude to damages will be governed by the nature of our reply and would therefore be grateful if you would inform us what his attitude to damages would be, were he to learn that the nature of our reply is as follows: fuck off.

            Hehehe …

            http://www.lettersofnote.com/2013/08/arkell-v-pressdram.html

      • greywarshark 14.1.2

        I thought we ought to find out who this Hagar is.
        Wikipedia says – ‘Hägar (sometimes written “Hagar”) is a shaggy, scruffy, overweight, red-bearded Viking.[5] He regularly raids England and sometimes France. ‘ Sounds violent, but interesting, keeps you on your toes sort of thing.

        More : ‘Hägar The Horrible is a comic strip about Hagar, a Viking businessman – sacking and looting is his profession. He leads a crew of hardworking Vikings and …’

        Then an explanatory video.
        (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlWsxppAtOo

        Don’t know if the description matches any of our dear leaders. Not Bill, not Andrew, not neat James, Hone and MP – not quite their thing as they are trying to get bits back from earlier raids on them, so what about Winston? Sounds a bit uncouth for him – he’s a lawyer isn’t he, so uses other methods.

        I think that Hagar has left the room and gone to Japan. Watch out Japan.

    • Sacha 14.2

      Also is mis-spelling a potential defence?
      “I was thinking of Earl Hageman III of Cornwall, your honour”

  15. A clarification from Graeme Edgeler:

    There were six causes of action: Little’s initial statement, and then five over statements over the following days (eg media comment and answers to questions). The Hagamans asserted that each of these six statements defamed both Mr Hagaman and Mrs Hagaman.

    The jury, by majority (which means 1, 2, or 3 jurors disagreed) found that none of the statements defamed Mrs Hagaman.

    They found in respect one of the statements, that Little had not defamed Mr Hagaman.

    In respect of one, they found that Little had defamed Mr Hagaman, but could not agree whether he had a defence of qualified privilege.

    In respect of the other four statements, they could not agree whether they were defamatory.

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2017/04/little_wins.html#comment-1908448

  16. ropata 16

    Asher Emanuel of The Spinoff writes

    On Niue, an island under the government of New Zealand until 1974, there is one hotel. In 2014 it was in poor repair and no longer making money. The Niuean government was considering what could be done. Back in New Zealand where there are many hotels it was election time.

    Two days before polling Earl Hagaman, concerned about the spectre of Kim Dotcom, donated $100,000 to the National Party. Not long after his donation, the organisation he founded, Scenic Hotel Group, won a contract to manage Niue’s hotel in a process overseen by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And not long after that, the New Zealand government made a grant of $7.5 million to refurbish the hotel now known as the Scenic Matavai.

    Over a year later, Radio New Zealand reported the closeness in time of the donation and the awarding of the contract. Earl had used his money to have an outsized influence on politics and in turn politics was about to have an outsized influence on him. Little, by this time leader of the opposition, had a few things to say. The situation “stinks” he said, and pointed to the Key government’s track record with sending sheep to Saudi Arabia and getting totally rinsed by SkyCity in negotiations over a convention centre. Little called for transparency and requested the Auditor-General to investigate the donation and contract.

    Was that the wrong thing to do? The story might have sunk without his comments. And without his request the Auditor-General might never have essentially cleared the process of corruption.

    Anyway, the Hagamans were displeased.[…]

    Hat tip

    Defamation law is stink. Watching the Hagaman-Little defamation trial, it felt like everybody lost https://t.co/pL3yiG6pJL— John Drinnan (@Zagzigger2) April 10, 2017

  17. cyclone 17

    So forgive me if this is an awful question but, given the constant refrain that Earl Hagaman is a dying man, what happens if he dies with this unresolved?
    Does the case end?

    • McFlock 17.1

      I suppose it could be continued by his estate.

      • cyclone 17.1.1

        Or not. Can you defame a dead man?

        [lprent: Quite tasteless. It would probably be a good idea not to pursue this line before you get me to give you the generic arsehole treatment. I do need the occasional practice twisting ignorant fuckwits like you into raging, ranting and frustrated diminished ego pretzels. So carry on – my decades of online venomous skills await you. ]

        • McFlock 17.1.1.1

          if the defamation harms the value of his assets because of their association with him, it could be argued that the defamatory statements are having ongoing damage.

          A lawyer would have an idea on who or what could mount an action in that case

        • Craig H 17.1.1.2

          No, one cannot defame the dead, legally speaking.

  18. Draco T Bastard 18

    Time will tell. But the next media outlet that says that Little has been found guilty of defaming the Hagemans ought to rethink their role in life.

    Little could probably sue them for defamation.

  19. ” Time will tell. But the next media outlet that says that Little has been found guilty of defaming the Hagemans ought to rethink their role in life.”

    ————————————————————-

    Good on you , Mickey.

  20. ianmac 20

    Suppose the Right will be pleased whatever the outcome, because they might feel that they have taught opponents a lesson.
    As they did to Nicky. He wins but at what huge cost.

    • Muttonbird 20.1

      The right are raging at this. Our own rwnjs are sulking and those on the alt-right attack sites Kiwiblog and Whaleoil are typically apoplectic.

      As McFlock said at 9.2.1: “Rich person lost a court case”. This outcome is simply not natural in their world view.

  21. saveNZ 21

    Lets face it, it was a politically motivated ruse right before the election to distract and try to discredit Little from a rabid Natz supporter and tax payer beneficiary with the added bonus of scaring others to look deeper into the swamp of political donations and their subsequent awards of taxpayer money.

    Natz have zero in policy for this election, no ideas and their only hope is to cheat, throw mud and hope the distraction on their own incompetence on everything from housing, to wages to transport to water to immigration is not in the media.

    Their only hope is to manufacture dirt on Labour do something stupid to keep the headlines off the Natz, like headlines Arden vs Little, or a statement against family violence they can manipulate into something else aka Cunliffe.

    However the tide has turned. People have been disgusted with the media from last election and their role in dirty politics and the media themselves are looking to find themselves ignored and irrelevant by their blatant bias and incompetence from the public.

    Maybe Little should sue the media who say he is guilty of defamation and get some of his costs back.

    Because we are now living in a society that allows litigation to cheat and drive out freedom of speech. AKA Big Tobacco was allowed to kill people for decades more than they should have by litigation.

    A few people have been victorious like the environmentalists against McDonalds.
    http://defamationwatch.com.au/?page_id=257

    The case with Little shows the public that justice is not justice any more. Yes he won, but he has had huge legal costs and the distraction and media coverage that should not have been allowed in the first place.

    Contrast this with the case in Northland and the Natz MP, who got off and he was not even publicly named as a suspect.

    So for real crimes Natz MP’s get off scot free and the media lets them and they are not ever named publicly and the Natz never scrutinised about their involvement related to the crime whether found guilty or not.

  22. One Anonymous Bloke 22

    I then apologised to the PM ‘for any offence taken’ – a classic Clayton’s apology which suggests that those offended are far too sensitive for their own good but, hey, if it makes them feel better then here is my most insincere effort’.

    Michael Laws.

    Whether or not it’s his intention to do so, Little adds insult to injury each time he apologises for the “hurt”.

    It’s like music to my ears 😈

  23. Cinny 23

    If Lani really cares about her ‘dying’ husband then she should be spending as much time as she can with him.

    Personally I’d be shocked if Lani and Earl kept this case going, considering his health. They would just be drawing more attention issue. Maybe their actions defamed themselves?

    Happy for Alpha and his family, and as a result of this case the public are better informed about ‘donations to political parties and big business’. Thanks Alpha, good vibes to you and yours.

  24. dukeofurl 24

    I never quite understood part of the Auditors Generals report of the hotel deal

    ‘8 October 2014 – A Ministry staff member emailed a person in Parliament, noting that “Tomorrow the Matavai Board is to consider the appointment of a hotel management company to run the Matavai. Scenic Circle are the proposed managers….
    http://www.oag.govt.nz/media/2016/niue-hotel

    I presumed that ‘person’ to be a national party politician. The wording suggests the lawyers have looked closely at this part.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 24.1

      Whoever the National Party’s bagman is, I doubt they leave a paper trail.

      • dukeofurl 24.1.1

        emails do !

        The whole Niue hotel project is doomed to fail really. The island is much further than even Tonga, has no palm fringed lagoons to entice tourists, like rarotonga
        There is only one direct Air NZ flight a week, which we taxpayers subsidise.

        Scenic tried to arrange Air Chathams to have flights from Tonga, which is 600km away. I suppose that required another subsidy. There arent any airlines in Tonga that can be trusted.
        At some stage I cant see Scenic staying without even bigger dollops of government money.

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