ON AIR: Early Edition

5AM - 6AM

Sexual assault victim must pay offender's court fees

Publish Date
Monday, 21 January 2019, 6:50PM
Mariya Taylor brought her case to the Auckland High Court too late. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Mariya Taylor brought her case to the Auckland High Court too late. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The victim of a historic sexual assault by an air force sergeant has been ordered to pay her abuser almost $28,000 in legal costs.

Former air force recruit Mariya Taylor was 18 years old when she was sexually harassed, assaulted and bullied by her boss, Sergeant Robert Roper, in the mid 1980s.

Roper, 72, was sentenced in 2015 to 13 years' imprisonment after being found guilty of 20 sex charges against five women.

His offending occurred between 1976 and 1988 when he served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force at its Whenuapai base in Hobsonville.

However, his crimes only came to light at the end of 2012 - 23 years after he left the military - when his daughter Karina Andrews told police her father began abusing her at the age of 6.

Taylor went to police after Roper was convicted but dropped her police complaint in favour of High Court civil proceedings and sought compensation from Roper and the Attorney General on behalf of the Defence Force.

She sought $600,000 in compensation, special damages for loss of earnings, medical and other expenses, and interest and legal costs.

She alleged that military officers were aware Roper was targeting younger women but ignored her and other's complaints.

However, after a High Court civil proceeding in September last year, Taylor's claim was dismissed because it was barred by both the Limitation Act and by the Accident Compensation Act.

Mariya Taylor was just an 18-year-old recruit when she became a victim of Robert Roper. Photo / Supplied

Mariya Taylor was just an 18-year-old recruit when she became a victim of Robert Roper. Photo / Supplied

Despite Justice Rebecca Edwards dismissing Taylor's claim for damages - the judge accepted many of her allegations.

The case was then taken back to High Court after both the RNZAF and Roper sought an award of costs.

The RNZAF subsequently withdrew its application after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked officials to drop the force's costs claims as Taylor had "been through enough".

Ardern said those who had read about the case would know it was "devastating" and it "wouldn't be right to pursue those costs".

However, Roper continued his claims which came to a total of $55,638.50 plus
disbursements of $220.

This sum was said to be substantially less than the actual costs and disbursements incurred by Roper which totalled $100,213.21.

The case was heard by Justice Rebecca Edwards in the High Court at Auckland.

In a judgment released today, Justice Edwards ruled Taylor must pay Roper $27,819.25.

Robert Roper was jailed for 13 years for his offending. Photo / Supplied

Court documents noted that the primary purpose of a costs award was to compensate a successful party for the costs they had expended in having their legal rights recognised and enforced in a court of law.

Costs were not ordered as punishment against the losing party, nor as a reward for the winner, they stated.

"The starting point is that Mr Roper successfully defended the claim against him, and is therefore entitled to an award of costs," Justice Edwards said.

Edwards chose to reduce the costs sought by Roper due to him denying his crimes - including assaulting or falsely imprisoning Taylor.

"He lost on that issue. I made factual findings that he likely committed the acts alleged. That issue absorbed some time at trial," Justice Edwards said.

Taylor's lawyer urged Justice Edwards to refuse to award costs to Roper.

He said Roper's conduct was "outrageous, disgraceful and deplorable".

Justice Edwards said while there was no dispute that Roper's conduct towards Taylor was heinous, refusing him costs would run counter to the law.

"Costs should not be used as a backdoor means of granting relief to a plaintiff who failed to get their claim past the front door," she said.

"Refusing costs in this case would also run counter to the policies underpinning
the costs regime. It would cut across the primary purpose of an award of costs, which
is to compensate a successful party for the costs they have expended in either bringing
or defending a claim in court.

"Refusing to award costs would undermine the integrity of the costs regime."


ON AIR: Early Edition

5AM - 6AM