More than 130 drug offences racked up by NZDF personnel – most for MDMA

The defence force has punished more than 130 personnel for using illegal drugs since 2014 – mostly MDMA.

Seven people were dismissed from service in that time as a result of their drug offending but most were sentenced to a stint in military prison and fined.

The Herald sought information about drug offending in the New Zealand Defence Force after learning that military police were carrying out “mobile patrols of known drug use locations that service persons are known to frequent”.

The patrols were mentioned in a statement relating to a man’s claims he was unlawfully detained by military police at a reserve near the Linton Military Camp.

He has made a complaint to police, and Defence Minister Peeni Henare has called for a full review of the incident.

After the story was published the NZDF released figures relating to drug offending by personnel to the Herald under the Official Information Act.

The figures showed that from 2014 until the end of 2020 134 drug infringements were recorded.

Of those infringements, 32 were caught on NZDF property, 83 per cent were in the army, and Class A drugs – a category that includes methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and LSD – were only found in 11 cases.

Only one person was caught more than once.

Punishments ranged from a week in detention – military jail – fines up to $3500, reduction in rank, stoppage of leave, confinement to their site and extra work, drill or duties.

NZDF chief of staff Air Commodore AJ Woods would not give any information on the specific locations that were hotspots for personnel drug use, or how they were patrolled.

He said that information “risks undermining the effectiveness” of the military police to “detect, prevent and investigate offending within the services”.

An NZDF spokesperson said most personnel were caught through military police “investigative action”.

“The NZDF is one of the largest organisations in New Zealand, comprising more than 14,000 people, and it is not immune to the issues present in wider society,” said the spokesperson.

“The misuse of substances is incompatible with duties in the NZDF.

“Not only are there harmful effects on individuals, but there are health and safety implications for those involved, and their colleagues, especially if they are operating machinery or doing other hazardous work.

“As such, NZDF has used a variety of different fronts to tackle the issues that drug use can have on individuals and workplaces.”

The spokesperson said that the army had a higher number of infringements simply as it was the biggest service in the NZDF.

The Army had 6548 personnel compared with 3093 civilians, 2891 in the Air Force and 2842 in the Navy.

“MDMA is the most commonly found or intercepted drug among individuals in those matters investigated,” the spokesperson said.

The drug -a chemical stimulant and the active ingredient in ecstasy – has increased in popularity and use in New Zealand in recent years.

Responses to personnel caught with or using drugs was “varied” and done on a
“case-by-case basis depending on a wide-range of circumstances unique to a service person”.

The spokesperson said misuse of substances was taken seriously and all drug offences were covered under the Armed Forces Discipline Act.

Any use or possession detected resulted in a charge – even where it may not have in the civilian jurisdiction.

If not dismissed by Court Martial, the NZDF would “review their retention” and they may still be let go depending on the circumstances.

In recent months three soldiers have been dismissed from the Army for involvement with MDMA.

They were also sentenced to serve time in military prison.

In March Corporal Nicholas Paul Davenport and Corporal Grayson Kingsley Ian Wright admitted they supplied, used and procured MDMA on multiple occasions in 2017 and 2018.

Davenport, 29, also pleaded guilty to other charges of drug use and supply including MDMA, cannabis and cocaine.

He supplied MDMA to Lance Corporal Kasey Tapara who was dismissed in January after she pleaded guilty to using and supplying MDMA to others.

She avoided prison due to the fact she had a young baby but was given a “severe reprimand” at her own Court Martial sentencing.

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