22 Jan 2019

Rapist's victims call for law change after $28k court ruling

6:28 pm on 22 January 2019

The lawyer of a woman ordered to pay a man the court found was likely to have abused her has lashed out at the justice minister for suggesting her client had bad legal advice.

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Photo: 123RF

Mariya Taylor was ordered to pay $28,000 to Robert Roper, after losing a civil case she brought against him and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) last year.

She had sued both for damages for the mental harm she alleged Roper caused assaulting her between 1985 and 1987.

Justice Minister Andrew Little was asked about the case on this morning, and while he declined to comment specifically, raised concerns Ms Taylor may have been a victim of bad legal advice.

Her lawyer, Geraldine Whiteford, said that was not the case.

She said the comments were inappropriate.

"The barrister taking the case is a very senior barrister. He's done hundreds of cases in Australia, he was an acting judge for a while, he's a senior counsel, and he put a lot of thought into the quite tricky legal issues before advising Mariya to take action."

There was an implication in Mr Little's comments that only iron-clad cases should be brought before a judge, she said.

"Which would possibly mean that no one ended up in court.

"The courts are there to serve people and to deal with slightly tricky issues, particularly issues that involve fundamental human rights, and so when we believe were perfectly appropriate and proper to take Mariya's case.

"What else were we supposed to do - sit back and do nothing?"

The initial court decision from last year was being appealed but Ms Taylor would still have to pay costs, Ms Whiteford said.

She said RNZAF should step up and pay, as they were Roper's employer at the time.

Throughout the process Ms Taylor had been supported by Tracey Thompson, Robert Roper's daughter, and victim.

In 2014, Roper was convicted of sexual offending against her, and her sister Karina Andrews, who's also supported Ms Taylor.

Ms Thompson said she was angry and upset by the judge's decision and felt physically sickened by it.

"What the judge is doing is rewarding Roper for his bad behaviour.

"We understand the legislation is what it is [and] we understand that there are consequences and there are always winners and losers in civil cases."

But Ms Thompson wanted the legislation to change so something similar would not happen again.

She had been in touch with Mr Little's office.

The defence force said it could not comment on the specifics of the case.

It was open to resolving the matter without further litigation.

It had never defended Roper nor denied the allegations made against him - and Roper did not represent in any way the values of the defence force.

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