Victim slams police over Opotiki sex case

Five young men have been spared a conviction after pleading guilty to underage sex charges in the Opotiki District Court.
FAIRFAX NZ

Five young men have been spared a conviction after pleading guilty to underage sex charges in the Opotiki District Court.

One of the teenage girls at the centre of a police probe into underage sex says they never listened to her and their investigation made her feel "dirty and disgraceful".

A group of five young Bay of Plenty men have been spared convictions after pleading guilty to sexual contact with underage girls.

At least one of the victims said she'd felt forced to make a complaint against the young men by the police, despite saying the sex was consensual.

Police were remaining tight-lipped on the girl's allegation of coercion on Thursday night, saying they had concluded a "comprehensive investigation".

One of the accused, who faced charges involving two of the girls, all of whom were aged 14 or 15 at the time, will have to pay reparation of $500.

Lawyers for the accused, aged 17 or 18 when the alleged offending occurred in the small town of Opotiki, were going to speak individually for their clients but Judge Louis Bidois proposed instead that they all appear at once during the packed courtroom sentencing on Thursday.

Reading a victim impact statement in the hearing at the Opotiki District Court, one of the girls implied she had been coaxed into following through with a complaint by police.

Standing with her mother, she said she never considered herself a victim or felt she had been mistreated in any way.

Instead, she said the laying of the charges and enduring the police investigation had impacted her adversely.

She said her then boyfriend had made her feel special and had text her daily for six months.

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When he was going hunting on one occasion she told him to look after himself. She later spoke to him when he was on a ridgeline and had phone reception.

She said she did not want his future ruined because of her because he never forced her to do anything she did not want to do.

She said police told her he needed to pay for what he had done, but she said she did not want that and wanted to hold onto the memories they created together.

Police had not listened to how she felt and the investigation had "made her feel dirty and disgraceful".

She was adamant she was not a victim and was just being used by police to make an example.

Judge Bidois discharged the men after deciding conviction would be disproportionate to the offending.

He said all five were young, first offenders and all accepted responsibility. They were all prepared to make amends, or had done so.

The judge permanently suppressed their names and the those of their victims.

In all cases it was made clear the sexual relationships were consensual.

Detective Inspector Mark Loper of the Bay of Plenty Police declined to comment on the victim impact statement after the hearing. However he said the sentencing had brought to a close a "comprehensive investigation".

"It's been a very thorough and complex inquiry, and I would particularly like to acknowledge the victims and their families who have worked closely with us throughout what has been a very challenging process for them.

"I'd also like to thank the inquiry team for all their hard work to bring this matter to a successful conclusion, despite considerable scrutiny and unfounded speculation from some quarters of the media regarding the investigation," Loper said.

"On the positive side, the general support of the local community has been much appreciated by the team and we thank them for their patience as we have worked through our investigation to get us where we are today."

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