Dancing on the head of a legal pin

Colin Craig’s lawyer, Stephen Mills QC, says they will appeal on the basis that the jury did not consider the argument of qualified privilege.

That is simply dancing on the head of a legal pin.

Here is the problem. The jury was given what is called a Question Trail. That is a trail of questions they need to answer in a logical manner to step them through the legal complexity of defamation law. The judge spent two hours summing up and directing the jury on how to use this Question trail to come to their decisions.

The Question Trail was drafted by Craig’s lawyer, then approved by Jordan’s lawyer and then finally by the Judge. Mills drafted the Question Trail to start with the defence of Qualified Privilege, then move to truth when that failed and then to honest opinion after that.

The Question Trail contained 14 questions, and there were two counts, so the jury had to step through 28 questions and write up their reasoning beside each one and hand that to the judge after the verdict was given.

The first few questions stepped through qualified privilege. They would not have been required to step through any more questions if the jury had considered qualified privilege and decided it applied. They clearly passed through those questions after quite some time…they deliberated for 10 hours. ?

They also stepped through the truth and honest opinion and came to the conclusion that Colin Craig HAD defamed Jordan Williams.

Further, they considered the defamation to be so extreme, so outrageous and so deliberate that they decided to award punitive damages against Craig.

When this gets to the Court of Appeal, Craig is going to find the judges will look at the punitive damages and decide accordingly. Same with the qualified privilege argument. Mills knows they considered it, he would have known that after the jury retired for the night the first day. After that, he would have been counselling his client to prepare for a loss.

Why?

Because in his closing argument he spent precisely two and half minutes explaining to the jury the truth defence, 5 minutes on honest opinion and a massive 40 minutes on qualified privilege. Craig was totally and utterly relying on qualified privilege.

For those who don’t know, qualified privilege can be lost. Firstly if you were motivated by ill will in your response. The evidence was clear on that. Colin was motivated by ill will and the jury must have agreed. The second way to lose qualified privilege is the breadth of the response. Jordan Williams spoke to about 5 people about Craig. Colin Craig thought an appropriate response was to call him a liar in 1.6 million booklets delivered nationwide. Now you can see why the jury decided he lost qualified privilege.

That left truth as a defence, which was gone the moment you examine the Mr X interview. And honest opinion was forlorn as well.

Colin Craig will likely appeal this, but he is also likely to lose that appeal.

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