• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

A gang-linked debt collector’s allegations, repeated by Winston Peters and TV3, have led to a $350,000 defamation payout.

Jun 4, 2021

Allegations by a gang-linked debt collector quoted in Parliament, on TV show Campbell Live and on Facebook have seen a Christchurch businessman awarded $350,000.
Earthquake claims advocate Bryan Staples has sued Richard Freeman, previously an owner of debt recovery firm Ironclad Securities, and company Mediaworks TV over claims made about him in 2014.
In a decision released on Friday, High Court Justice JanMarie Doogue agreed that Staples had been defamed by Freeman who had accused him of being corrupt, a bully, and a conman who ripped people off.
Staples case against Mediaworks TV and two former Campbell Live journalists is yet to be heard.
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Bryan Staples, pictured in 2014 when allegations were first made about him. Staples has now won $350,000 in damages.
The judge also said that Winston Peters, then New Zealand First Party leader, defamed Staples when he repeated the allegations in Parliament.
Parliamentary privilege prevents Peters from being sued for his comments.
Staples owns Claims Resolution Service (CRS), a business which pursues earthquake insurance settlements on a no-win, no-fee basis.
His troubles began when CRS refused to pay Malcolm Gibson for $170,000 of invoiced work after discovering he was not the highly qualified quantity surveyor he claimed to be, the court was told. Staples said the work done by Gibsons company was left with no commercial value to CRS.
When he was not paid, Gibson then sold the $170,000 debt to debt collection business Ironclad Securities for $1. Staples said he considered the move a form of vengeance.
The High Court ruled that Richard Freeman was responsible for harm caused by a speech in Parliament made by Winston Peters, pictured. Peters is protected from a lawsuit by parliamentary privilege.
Freeman was a co-director and co-owner of Ironclad Securities Ltd along with Lyndon Richardson, then a senior Head Hunters gang member, who now owns and runs the business alone.
The court was told that two intimidating men then arrived at Staples home, threatening to kill him if he did not pay them within seven days.
When he did not pay, Ironclad began posting a series of allegations about him on its Facebook page, which Staples said were untrue. Freeman acknowledged he was the pages moderator.
The posts called Staples a professional conman, accused him of illegal conduct, the court was told, and said he bullied and threatened good people out of their debt.
Ironclad appeared to be little more than enforcers, the judge said in her decision.
Richard Freeman, pictured, has been found liable for defaming Bryan Staples.
Neither Mr Freeman nor Ironclad ever attempted at any stage to refer the debt to the appropriate judicial body. Instead, Mr Staples alleges Mr Freeman sent threatening messages, told Mr Staples he had placed vehicle trackers on his vehicle and threatened him at work, she said.
Staples later obtained restraining orders against Freeman under harassment laws.
In July 2014 after discussions with Freeman and being given documents, Winston Peters made a speech in Parliament accusing Staples of using his companies to defraud, mislead, and cheat people.
The judge found that Freeman actively encouraged Mr Peters to use absolute privilege to make allegations about Mr Staples.
Lyndon Richardson, pictured, was a senior Head Hunters gang member when he co-owned Ironclad Securities with Richard Freeman. (File photo)
Most of the speech was broadcast on Mediaworks Campbell Live TV show, in an item Staples told the court was shockingly bad, twisted and untrue. The programme later ran a second item based on Peters claims.
Mr Freeman is responsible for the harm caused by Mr Peters speech in Parliament and the first Campbell Live programme, the court decision said.
The court heard evidence that Staples business, reputation and well-being were seriously harmed by the published allegations against him.
They represent a sustained and comprehensive attack on Mr Staples character and business practices. the judge said.
Mediaworks TV current affairs show Campbell Live, hosted by John Campbell, pictured, also ran the allegations against Staples.
Mr Staples says everything changed when Mr Freeman and his Head Hunter henchmen entered his life.
The judge listed several aggravating factors against Freemen.
They included his financial motivation to defame Staples and apparent attempts to extort him, his offensive emails and threats, his flouting of the injunction against him, and that he knowingly and cynically encouraged Peters to make allegations in Parliament knowing Staples would have no recourse.
She ordered Freeman to pay Staples $350,000 in damages, interest from the date of the judgment, and costs of $20,000.
Grant Robertson and Megan Woods outline the Government’s response to the report on EQC.