NZDF drops costs against Mariya Taylor as Jacinda Ardern tells them to back off

The New Zealand Defence Force will not pursue costs in a sexual assault case.

Newshub recieved confirmation from an NZDF spokesperson it will "not be seeking costs in this High Court case".

However, Mariya Taylor's abuser, convicted child rapist Robert Roper, is still pursuing costs.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had told the Defence Force to back off. The NZDF was under fire for chasing legal costs from Ms Taylor, after her compensation bid against them failed.

As a 19-year-old Air Force recruit, Ms Taylor suffered assault and abuse at the hands of former Air Force (RNZAF) sergeant Robert Roper in the 1980s, including being locked in a tyre cage, prodded with an iron bar, and rubbed against and groped during car rides.

The Auckland High Court ruled earlier in the year that while she had been abused by child rapist Roper, it was too late to make a claim, as the statute of limitations has run out.

The Prime Minister told media on Friday that regardless of whether or not costs are awarded, her expectation is they won't be sought.

"This case is devastating. It makes for devastating reading. It wouldn't be right to pursue those costs, so they won't be," Ms Ardern said.

Maryia Taylor in the 1980s and Andrew Little.
Maryia Taylor in the 1980s and Andrew Little. Photo credit: Supplied/Getty


"My expectation is they won't be pursued. Mariya has been through enough."

Instead, Ms Ardern wants the Defence Force to sit down and find a resolution outside court. 

When asked what her reaction would be if NZDF doesn't withdraw its case, she replied "it's not up for discussion". 

Little wants to 'eyeball' NZDF officials

Her statement echoes Justice Minister Andrew Little, who voiced his disappointment on Friday morning.

Mr Little said that he wanted to "eyeball" senior officials in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and tell them to lay off seeking costs from a sexual assault victim.

"Mariya sued the Defence department, she didn't succeed, and the lawyers all kick in and say, 'Right, you lost, therefore under the High Court rules we're allowed to seek costs,'" Mr Little, presently Acting Defence Minister, told RadioLIVE on Friday.

"Sometimes you do just have to step back and say, even though on the Crown's side, the Government's side, we won, what is the just and fair thing to do here? 

"Actually we are in the power position here, she is powerless against us. It doesn't look right for the Crown, very powerful Defence Force, to be pursuing this woman, who the judge said had some legitimate claims and factual findings in her favour, to be hounded for costs. So I think there is a legitimate argument to say we've got to deal with this."

Mr Little says he is getting advice on whether he can actually step in and stop the NZDF from seeking its share of the costs.

"As a minister sometimes you do have to eyeball your senior officials and say, 'You know what? We're just not gonna do this.' Or alternatively, 'We are going to do this - even though you don't like it. That is the role of being a minister, and we all have to do that from time to time."

But the law might stand in his way.

"It's the Attorney-General that instructs Crown Law and Crown lawyers, who have to I think give any sort of instruction. But in the end, this is the big, messy world of Government and I don't think we should be hiding behind the technicalities of it here. There is clearly something unfair and unjust about this. We've just got to get on and deal with it, and I'm taking advice on how to do that."

He's not sure what steps Defence Minister Ron Mark has taken already, if any, nor how much he knows about the case.

"Ron is an impeccably fair man, and he would be uncomfortable with this and he would want a just and fair result."

Mr Little says Ms Taylor's appeal of the ruling complicates the situation, but only slightly. 

"She's been through enough. She's had a go, it didn't work out for her - the Government is bigger than that, and we should be acting accordingly."

If you have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment or assault and would like to speak to someone, you could call the HELP support service.

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