Several failures have been highlighted in an independent report about how the Air Force handled a sexual predator in its ranks - including the destruction of complaint and investigation files.

The report, prepared by Frances Joychild QC, into historic sexual abuse allegations involving Sergeant Robert Roper was released this week by the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF).

It also comes as one of Roper's victims awaits a High Court decision after suing Roper and the NZDF for compensation.

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

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Now in his 70s, Roper 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.

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

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.

The NZDF commissioned the "Joychild Report", released to the Herald today under the Official Information Act, to investigate the handling of historic sexual abuse, harassment and bullying complaints from the 1970s and early 1980s.

The 244-page report spoke at length about the high level of respect New Zealanders have for the armed services, but how news stories about Roper's offending may have eroded public trust in the NZDF.

"For the majority of the public, abuses of the kind that came to light with Robert Roper's case are as unexpected as they are upsetting," Joychild wrote.

"Hence when appalling sexual behaviour by Robert Roper, a former member of the armed forces, is reported in the media, and the investigation discloses ineptitude and inaction on the part of some that prevented the behaviour being stopped, then the public are inevitably disappointed and let down.

"For many, especially those connected or close to those involved, there will have been serious doubts raised as to the NZDF's capability, willingness, and resolve to take the steps necessary to address the organisational weaknesses that have rendered it unable to protect its own from misconduct."

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The NZDF commissioned the report to investigate the handling of historic sexual abuse, harassment and bullying. Photo / Dean Purcell
The NZDF commissioned the report to investigate the handling of historic sexual abuse, harassment and bullying. Photo / Dean Purcell

Joychild said the NZDF can not continue as it had done in the past.

"Leaving the status quo unchanged meant sex scandals would inevitably recur and the public's respect for the armed forces would erode," the report read.

"That would have been most unfortunate as the sort of behaviour disclosed in this inquiry is a far cry from the values of most Defence Force personnel of every rank."

However, Joychild said the Defence Force has "taken the bull by the horns" and praised the launch of Operation Respect in 2016 focusing on victims, calling it a "quantum leap forward".

"Prioritisation of care of the victim is heartening and uplifting," she wrote.

But there were also NZDF record-keeping issues which Joychild said did "impede this inquiry's investigations" into Roper.

"The important documents are simply missing or were not created in the first place when they should have been does not inspire confidence," she said.

Roper's offending occurred between 1976 and 1988 at the Whenuapai base. Photo / NZ Herald
Roper's offending occurred between 1976 and 1988 at the Whenuapai base. Photo / NZ Herald

The report recommended the NZDF modernise its record-keeping, review its record-keeping to ensure it complies with the Public Records Act, and permanently keep all sexual complaint and investigation files - rather than them being destroyed.

The report highlighted several other failures including multiple untrained people handling complaints, conflicts of interest, and the potential for subjectivity and inconsistency to influence the processes.

Chief of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Tony Davies, commenting on the report in a statement acknowledged what the survivors went through "at the hands of Robert Roper".

"I also acknowledge their courage throughout this process," he said.

"We have had the opportunity to meet and to discuss the report with them. They can be proud of their efforts throughout this inquiry and know that they have played a significant role in the success of Operation Respect and the continuing culture change throughout the NZDF."

Destroyed NZDF records impeded the inquiry's investigations. Photo / NZ Herald
Destroyed NZDF records impeded the inquiry's investigations. Photo / NZ Herald

Davies said the NZDF had already taken action on 92 of the Joychild's 97 recommendations with existing policy or will be considering them in a review of the military justice system.

"The remaining five are more complex, and we are seeking further clarification and advice on those," he said.

Families of service members, Davies added, can be reassured there are now steps for people to obtain support, even if they do not wish to make a formal complaint.

"They can also take confidence that the organisation has recognised the scale of the issue and that the leadership is determined to fix the issue.

"Sexual violence is a wide-spread and complex problem in New Zealand. The New Zealand Defence Force is not immune, and we have acknowledged it is an issue we must address."