The insistence of the Defence Force to deal with everything in-house contributed to a former sergeant's sexual crimes at an Auckland military base during the 1980s, a court has heard.

The claim comes as the Defence Force is being sued for compensation by a former enlisted woman over its alleged failure to act against the non-commissioned officer.

Robert Richard Roper's offending occurred between 1976 and 1988 when he served with the Royal New Zealand Air Force at its Whenuapai base in Hobsonville.

The 72-year-old was sentenced in 2015 to 13 years' imprisonment after being found guilty of 20 sex charges against five women at an Auckland District Court trial in December the previous year.


His crimes were only first revealed at the end of 2012 - 23 years after he left the military - when his daughter Karina Andrews told police her father was abusing her from the age of 6.

Roper, who still denies the offending, lost his appeal against his convictions and sentence in 2016.

During the past week-and-a-half in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Rebecca Edwards has heard the woman's claims against Roper and the Crown (Defence Force and Attorney-General).

She is one of nine new complainants or witnesses who have come forward since Roper was first charged.

The woman, whose identity is suppressed, alleges she was attacked by Roper while her commanding officers did nothing.

Today as closing submissions were heard, the woman's counsel Graeme Little said his client's claims were "not a figment of her imagination".

"She was in danger, he was committing serious crimes," he said.

Little added that the insistence of the Defence Force to deal with everything in-house had contributed to Roper's offending,


It was only the civilian police which took steps to hold Roper accountable, he said.

Crown lawyer Antonia Fisher QC told the court to see "the need for caution when considering allegations so long ago, what was said, and what was felt".

She urged Justice Edwards to "test the credibility of a plaintiff's application".

Fisher said the knowledge that Roper has since been convicted of a slew of sexual offences "can not but help colour the recollection of the [woman]".

"It is not surprising therefore that her memory is affected by what she now knows about him," the Queen's Counsel said.

Robert Roper was jailed in 2015 for historical sexual offending against five women. Photo / Supplied
Robert Roper was jailed in 2015 for historical sexual offending against five women. Photo / Supplied

The woman, who was enlisted with the Air Force during the 1980s and returned later in the 1990s in a civilian role, also accused Roper of giving her poor work appraisals to ruin her career.

However, the paper work, Fisher said, showed she had potential and was encouraged to re-enlist.

The woman was also not diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder until 2016, by which time the civil court proceedings had been filed, Fisher added.

At Roper's criminal trial, one victim told the court that the rapist had offered her a ride home before driving her to an area at the base known as the bombing range.

There he reclined her seat and locked the doors.

She tried to escape but Roper bound her hands with the seatbelt and raped her.

Similar evidence has been heard during the civil proceeding, where women have said they were wary of Roper offering to drive them home.

"Something must have been happening in those cars though," Justice Edwards said.

"We heard a lot about women being uncomfortable about him taking them home, so there must have been a reason for that."

It was also heard that women were uncomfortable about having to drive senior non-commissioned officers home, with allegations of drunkenness and inappropriate behaviour.

When giving evidence at the hearing last week, the woman said: "A lot of us girls just gave up telling our story."

Co-Crown counsel Jessica Gorman said the court should distance the Defence Force from Roper's actions.

"He wasn't embodying the alter ego or mind of the Air Force and wasn't acting as the Air Force," she said.

She added that what may have been well-known in the non-commissioned ranks may not have been known to the officers.

Further submissions will be heard this afternoon before Justice Edwards retires to consider her decision.