So How Did The High Court Come To The Colin Craig Costs Decision?

So How Did The High Court Come To The Colin Craig Costs Decision? 2

The High Court decision of Justice Hinton awarding $400,000 in damages by the High Court after she was defamed by former employer, former Conservative Party leader Colin Craig in the long-running defamation cases.

Justice Hinton found both parties defamed each other in certain respects – and that MacGregor had been sexually harassed by Craig.

Justice Hinton found that Craig defamed MacGregor on four separate occasions: at two media conferences in 2015, in a letter to Conservative Party members and in a booklet that was sent to 1.6 million households.

In the High Court judgement, Justice Hinton said Craig “deliberately misled the media by presenting factually inaccurate information in a way which impugned Ms MacGregor”.

But how were the costs awarded?  Justice Hinton awarded costs on the 2B scale and the following extract from the judgement indicates her reasoning for the award.

[135] I accept defamation is a complex area of law. But this was not a particularly complex proceeding. Unlike many defamation proceedings, this one did not require the evidence of other witnesses to establish whether statements had been made and while there were the usual wide-ranging defences, these also did not require evidence much beyond the parties themselves.

[136] This proceeding has occupied considerable time but is of average complexity and significance. It did not require special skill and experience. This is borne out by the fact Mr Craig represented himself, albeit he clearly had legal assistance behind the
scenes. It is properly a category 2 proceeding and Ms MacGregor is entitled to scale
2B costs.

[137] I am prepared however to allow for second counsel. A proceeding of this kind where a plaintiff is self-represented justifies the assistance of second counsel in preparing for hearing and presenting the case at trial.

the claim for punitive damages
was not justified, let alone the very recent increase to $150,000.

Justice Hinton

[138] Ms MacGregor calculates 2B scale costs in the sum of $164,432 and claims disbursements of $955.76. However, these costs are again for the proceeding as a whole. I have already found Ms MacGregor is not entitled to costs on Mr Craig’s
claim. Again as an approximation, I attribute 50 per cent of the costs as relating to the counterclaim. I note Ms MacGregor’s success on the preliminary argument as to whether Mr Craig sexually harassed her, and also that some of the items in her costs schedule relate only to her counterclaim (for example submissions on damages) or exceed the corresponding entry for attendances regarding Mr Craig’s claim. However, it may well have been possible to avoid the preliminary argument and I have already said the claim for damages was excessive. In particular the claim for punitive damages was not justified, let alone the very recent increase to $150,000.

[139] Also, I do not consider any reduction in Ms MacGregor’s costs is appropriate in terms of r 14.7(d). While she was unsuccessful on some issues, I do not consider they significantly increased Mr Craig’s costs and I note again her success on the preliminary point. All of the issues advanced in the claim and counterclaim related to the same series of events. While Mr Craig may have incurred some additional cost in dealing with the claims on which Ms MacGregor did not succeed, it was not
significant.

[140] Ms MacGregor is entitled therefore to 50 per cent of 2B scale costs, inclusive of second counsel. It appears the daily rate used for her calculations is the current rate of $2,390. The rate applicable from 1 July 2015 to 31 July 2019 was $2,230. That
applies to all of the steps prior to judgment and to one memorandum afterwards. The adjusted figure is $155,099. Scale costs to which Ms MacGregor is entitled are therefore $77,550 (rounded) along with her disbursements of $955.76, which I allow
in full as they are modest.

Result

[141] Ms MacGregor is awarded damages in the sum of $400,000 (comprising general and aggravated damages).

[142] No award is made for punitive damages.

[143] Ms MacGregor is to pay disbursements to Mr Craig in the sum of $37,337. Mr Craig is to pay costs in the sum of $77,550 and disbursements of $955.76 to Ms MacGregor. Deducting the award made to Mr Craig from that to Ms MacGregor
in terms of r 14.17, I make a final award of costs in favour of Ms MacGregor of $40,213 and disbursements of $955.76.
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