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NZ: Teen 'buys' his way out of sex conviction (Southland)

Publish Date: 30 Nov 2011
Source: The Southland Times

A Southland teenager bought his way out of a criminal conviction for having sex with a minor, the 14-year-old victim's mother said yesterday.

Her comments came after the 18-year-old was discharged without conviction for sexual connection with a young person, but ordered to pay $10,000 emotional harm reparation for the incident in June this year.

The identity of the youth, who was 17 at the time of the offence, cannot be revealed after Judge Kevin Phillips ordered permanent name suppression when the youth appeared in the Invercargill District Court on Monday. The youth had pleaded guilty but Judge Phillips set aside the plea.

The victim's mother said yesterday the incident has had a devastating effect on her daughter.

She had attempted to take her own life, found it difficult to make friends and has had to change schools.

Her daughter and the youth had been attending the same school.

Everything had put a massive strain on the family, she said.

"Money can't erase what has happened [to her daughter] and never make up for the stress we have had to endure on a daily basis."

There was no justice for victims under New Zealand law, she said.

The family were disappointed the youth had been given permanent name suppression. It was unfair he could move on without any restrictions while her daughter did not have the same opportunity. "We feel really let down."

The mother said it was farcical for the court to impose such a large amount of reparation for emotional harm yet let the teenager walk away without any consequences, not even counselling.

"It could be that part of this kid's problem is that he thinks he is entitled to take whatever he wants and there are no consequences, that mummy and daddy will fix it.

"And the court has bought into that."

She was convinced that the outcome would have been vastly different had the teenager come from a low socioeconomic background.

However, an expert criminologist and sociologist believes the decision was about right.

Canterbury University professor of sociology Greg Newbold said the judge's determination made sense. The charge of sexual connection meant the teenager was accused of having sex with someone aged under 16 years but not of having non-consensual sex.

The relative closeness in age was a mitigating factor, he said.

The judge would have looked at the circumstances of the offending and the offender and decided a conviction would have possibly done irreparable damage "to a young man who otherwise has pretty good prospects for the future", Prof Newbold said.

The mother said they had conceded to police laying a lesser charge to prevent their daughter being victimised by the court.

"She had already been tried and found guilty by the school."

The girl was asked to leave after the incident, with the school claiming it was for the good of the other pupils, the mother said.

She intends to take this up with the Education Ministry.

But for now, the woman hopes time will heal.

"We are going to continue to support our daughter as she tries to put this behind her."

Copyright © 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited