A member of the New Zealand Air Force who pleaded guilty to assaulting her colleague while high on MDMA, told a court that her own claims of sexual assault by a senior officer went largely ignored.
Leading Aircraftman Nicole Leger appeared via video link to a Court Martial at the Trentham Military Camp this morning where she pleaded guilty to assault and consuming a Class B substance.
She received a severe reprimand for her actions, escaping a dismissal from the armed forces.
According to the summary of facts Leger hosted a party at her flat in June 2020 where she was handed a drink, which she began consuming before being told it contained MDMA.
However, she continued to consume the drink despite this knowledge.
She then started to exhibit unusual behaviour and told people at the party "I'm on drugs, I've taken MDMA."
Leger then offered her room to a colleague - who has name suppression - who wanted to rest. Leger then entered the room while the complainant was sleeping and put her face very close to the other woman's and touched her shoulders.
Her lawyer, Michael Bott, told the court that his client's offending was "far more vanilla in nature" than the offending Leger had been the victim of months earlier.
He said the contrast between how the incidents were handled was stunning.
"The fundamental thing that jars in this case is the disparity in treatment between Ms Leger as a complainant in terms of being the recipient of repeated, insistent and unwanted touching by a senior officer, with the way that she was treated with a one-off incident that was nowhere near as intrusive or indecent as that she was subjected to."
In her affidavit, Leger said she had complained about the conduct of a senior officer which resulted in few consequences for the man involved.
"Due to the dramatic differences in how these incidents were handled by my unit I am left with major questions about how I was treated by the NZDF as a victim of a sexual assault, with how I've been treated as a person about whom a complaint was made."
"I question whether I have been treated different because of my gender."
Leger claims she was assaulted by a Sergeant in November 2019 at an event to which she was sober driver, driving colleagues to. At two points throughout the night, the senior officer touched Leger on the shoulders and back despite being asked not to.
"I am the one left wondering why I've been treated so differently."
"The NZDF have accepted that the male senior's behaviour was inappropriate but he faced little to no consequences for his actions."
"I now have little to no faith in the ability of my senior leaders to handle cases concerning assault charges."
Leger said she'd had to move out of her flat to save money and lived in her car for parts of the last year while awaiting trial. She told the court she'd been in limbo while she waited nearly a year for her case to be heard.
"During the past one and a half years I have fallen. I have been broken. I have cried more in this one and a half years than I ever have in my whole life."
Judge Kevin Riordan told Leger that her statement had not gone unnoticed.
"I will be following up on these matters."
The complainant against Leger told the court in a victim impact statement that she forgave her.
"It's important to let you know that your actions were not okay - not just towards me but to my husband and whanau."
She said that it was important for her to come forward as an example to her niece and nephew and that despite gender, Leger's behaviour was not okay.
"Moving forward please be careful - you don't know people's story."
Crown prosecutor Major Grant Fletcher said the Crown was seeking Leger's dismissal from the service - the second most-severe punishment a Court Martial can deliver behind imprisonment.
He said that Leger might not have know the drink she consumed had MDMA in it, but she didn't stop drinking it after she was told.
"In a civilian court this wouldn't have been seen as such a serious matter. The accused isn't a civilian, she knew full that what she was doing flew in the face of everything she agreed by joining the service."
"She claims it was the drugs she took that led to the assault."
"The problem with that as an argument is that the choice to take the drugs was hers. "
Fletcher told the court that drug-taking in the military was increasing and that Leger's case would help act as a deterrent.
"If drug taking is on the increase, what would it be like if drug takers weren't court-martialed?"
Fletcher noted that the situation might have been different if Leger had been caught smoking cannabis - a Class C substance - as opposed to MDMA which carries a higher penalty for its use.
"It's the nature of the drug that was taken. Not the drug itself."
Between 2014 and 2021 the defence force has punished more than 130 personnel for using illegal drugs - with most of the cases involving MDMA. Seven people were dismissed from service in that time as a result of their drug offending.
In his summing up Judge Kevin Riordan said that the defence force needed to denounce drug use within the armed forces.
He said that unwanted touching and drug use were the two main issues within the military.
"Sadly your offending touches on both of those matters."
"There's also a deterrent factor, the need to deter yourself and others from committing the same offences."
Judge Riordan said that most cases of assault that came before the court were far more serious.
"In every case we looked at, you were below the lowest level of offending," he said.
Finally, Judge Riordan said that he would be following up with the chief of the defence force about the issues Leger faced in reporting the assault against her.
"We want answers," he said.
Despite escaping a dismissal from the military Leger told the court she intended to leave the military anyway to pursue a masters in social work.